An evangelical pastor in Aleppo analyses the “very critical” situation in Syria. “Pray for us, our sufferings became so great”. The UN says at least 5,800 people died due to the earthquake.
Turkey is the worst affected, with over 38,000 dead and 105,000 injured, according to official figures from Ankara.
While humanitarian aid and rescue teams from several countries are arriving in the epicentre of the earthquake, the situation in neighbouring Syria is also extremely serious and there is no guarantee that international support will arrive.
The war situation that the country faces since 2011 had already plunged much of the territory affected by the earthquake into a situation of profound humanitarian crisis, which with the earthquake has become even worse.
The organisation World Vision warned this February about the situation of unaccompanied children in the country, with an estimated 2.5 million Syrian minors affected.
The White Helmets (an organisation formed by volunteers working in the country since the war) continue to work to pull people out from under the rubble, and local entities (including some evangelical churches) try to provide shelter and food to those in need. But international aid is slowed down by the obstacles and supervision of the regime.
While Damascus reports at least 3,384 dead, the UN puts the death toll at over 5,800.
In an interview with Spanish news website Protestante Digital, the pastor of the Alliance Church in Aleppo, Abdallah, describes in more detail the situation in the city, located in one of the few regions still controlled by opponents of Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Question. What is the situation in Aleppo?
Answer. The situation in Aleppo is very critical, in general, because of the earthquake and before the earthquake.
Before the earthquake, people were living in a difficult economic crisis, and were not even able to afford their basic needs. Due to inflation and constant high prices the situation was really bad.
After the earthquake, the situation became more difficult, which has caused the destruction of many buildings in Aleppo. This led to the displacement of people in the streets. Amidst the cold weather, their conditions are very difficult.
Many people did not find a place to stay because of the lack of places. This led to the wretchedness of large number of people on the streets, while they wait for help from the relevant authorities to provide them with food and shelter.
Q. What are the main needs?
A. The basic need at the moment is for shelter, warmth and food, because there are many people on the streets who have left their homes and whose houses are likely to be demolished at any moment.
Some of them have confirmed that their buildings will be demolished due to the extensive damage they received during the earthquake, so that the need now is to keep them in warm, closed places and give them food, water and medicine. There are elderly people who need their medicines and can't afford to buy them.
Q. What are the problems to get international aid in?
A. There are often difficulties in getting state approvals for the delivery of aid into the country, which takes a long time and prohibits the process of transferring aid of all kinds.
Q. What has the earthquake meant for the city of Aleppo now, in addition to the consequences of the war?
A. The population has been affected by the hard war in Syria and the city of Aleppo, in particular, has been the target of numerous terrorist attacks during the war.
These missiles shook the foundations of the buildings and weakened them greatly by the intensity of the explosions and the hurling.
Amid all this suffering came the earthquake, which caused many physiological problems for the population. Moreover, its intensity has led to the demolition of those buildings that were weakened during the war.
Q. How are the churches in the city experiencing the situation?
A. Churches, in general, are working as much as possible to open shelters in their facilities and premises in order to house these people and provide them with assistance such as shelter, food and medicine. Of course, this depends on the capacities available.
Q. How can Christians in Europe pray for you?
A. We, as Syrians and believers, ask you to pray much for the Syrian people, because our sufferings have become so great. Without getting rid of the effects of the war, the earthquake overtook them and turned their lives completely in a negative direction, as it has implanted fear and panic in the hearts of all.
We ask you to pray that the Lord will help us, sustain us and put grace in the hearts of the donors who are helping the Syrian people in this severe crisis, so that they will be able to overcome this crisis by the grace of God.