Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — Sabah, a mother of eight, was home alone with her youngest child when a fiery skirmish struck near her doorstep in Damascus. The two fled to a nearby school to seek shelter. As the fighting spread, Sabah and her young son moved onto a second and then third shelter, seeking safer living arrangements. While Sabah hopes that her seven older children are with their father, she has had no contact with any of them, nor received any news of their whereabouts. She says the heavy emotional burden of not knowing where her children are keeps her awake at night and unable to focus on anything else. "I suffer from muscle spasms every time I think about my family circumstances which now I live in," she laments.
More than 1.2 million Syrians like Sabah and her young son have been displaced from their homes in Syria over the past 18 months. Many of them, especially those people who have been displaced from Damascus and Aleppo, have witnessed intensifying violence and endured the loss of jobs, homes and loved ones. Too often, they have also lost hope for the future.
International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), a member of the ACT Alliance, is providing psychosocial support to help these distressed families cope with their uncertain situations. Working in partnership with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East (GOPA), IOCC has visited three school shelters in Damascus with psychosocial experts to provide counseling sessions to more than 1,100 displaced Syrians like Sabah and her young son. The sessions with the adults and with the children are revealing various problems related to mental health, especially fear, worry and grief. Many say that they feel intense fear all or most of the time and use prayer and socializing with other people as ways to cope.
For Sabah, the programs have been especially helpful in teaching her how to deal with her own stress as well as the stress her son is experiencing. "The most important thing for me was to see the smile back on my son's face," says Sabah. "The trainers who worked with the children had a lot of experience and assisted the children to interact and play together, which helped my son to overcome his fears and sadness."
Along with the psychosocial support, IOCC continues to work with its church partners and local associations to provide emergency humanitarian aid to internally displaced Syrians. More than 200,000 displaced people and those affected by the violence in Syria have been assisted with personal health kits and other aid.
The recent surge of violence in the historic Syrian city of Aleppo left overwhelming damage, crippled communication lines and urgent requests for emergency assistance. IOCC has begun distributing health kits, infant supplies and food parcels to the people affected in northern Syria, including Aleppo, in coordination with a committee of Christian leaders in the city.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
You can help the victims of poverty and conflicts around the world, like those in Syria, by making a financial gift to the International Emergency Response Fund which will provide immediate relief as well as long-term support through the provision of emergency aid, recovery assistance and other support to help those in need.
To make a gift, please visit www.iocc.org or call toll free at 1-877-803-IOCC (4622), or mail a check or money order payable to IOCC, P.O. Box 17398, Baltimore, MD 21297.
ABOUT INTERNATIONAL ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHARITIES
IOCC is the official humanitarian aid agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in North and Central America. Since its inception in 1992, IOCC has delivered more than $400 million in relief and development programs to families and communities in 50 countries. IOCC is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.
Media contact: Rada K. Tierney, IOCC Media Relations, 443-823-3489, firstname.lastname@example.org