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Bridges, June 26, 2020

GLOBAL SISTERS REPORT – Sr. Annie Demerjian, RJM

Excerpt from 6/22/20 article “Covid-19 Worsens Danger Hardships People Face Conflict Zones”, by Chris Herlinger, used with permission

In Syria, a health threat to a country at war

Syria is dealing with the pandemic in the midst of continued war and international sanctions - with more expected to come - that have brought the country's economy to its knees.

"We've lived through all kinds of bad conditions: lack of food, fuel, shelling," said Sr. Annie Demerjian, a member of the congregation Sisters of Jesus and Mary , interviewed by telephone from the Syrian capital of Damascus. It has been difficult to "worry about something else, because we have been through a lot, it's too much of a burden. Syria deserves peace."

A June 12 Associated Press report said the extent of the coronavirus' toll in Syria is not known. "Testing is lacking and authorities have reported only 152 cases and six deaths in government-controlled parts of the country," the AP reported.

Demerjian said she has heard a figure of 164 cases, and that 68 people have recovered, as of June 17. Whatever the numbers, Demerjian believes authorities handled a two-month lockdown wisely, but added that the overall situation remains dire. "People are so tired," she said.

The war-related humanitarian ministry Demerjian and others in her congregation have provided - such as food and cash assistance, as well as a microcredit program - continues, but in a more limited way because the lockdown has made reaching people difficult.

"The coronavirus has paralyzed life in the city," she said, adding that hunger is a reality for many, and that some have taken to social media to offer a kidney or an eye as a way to make money.

Paradoxically, during the worst of the war, from 2011 to about 2018, emergency assistance provided more food to people than now.

"More sanctions, coronavirus," Demerjian said. "It's like you're trying to kill these people, there is no life for them anymore. Is it right to do that?"

Such pleas are ultimately about the need for peace, with some still hoping that nations and warring factions will heed the call of U.N. Secretary General Guterres and "put armed conflict on lockdown."

The full article is attached to Bridges and also available online.

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