NESSL Relief & Rehabilitation Program
Report by Rev. Salam Hanna, Director
The Relief & Rehabilitation Program of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESL) started formally in 2013. The program has been helping many war-affected families inside Syria. It provides part of what people need through the diakonia ministry of our Presbyterian churches and local relief committees in 20 locations in Syria.
The NESSL report is summarized on this page. You may view or download the full report HERE.
The Current Situation in Syria
On March 15, 2018, the Syrian Crisis completed 7 years of struggle. This war has led to:
- 6 million internally displaced people
- 5 million refugees and immigration of hundreds of thousands
- more than 500,000 victims and thousands of causalities
- unemployment rate of up to 60%
- currency depreciated more than 92%
- massive destruction in parts of the cities of Aleppo, Homs, Damascus suburbs, Raqqa, and many other towns and villages.
In 2017 the Global Peace Index ranked Syria as the least-safe country in the world at 163, after Iraq (161) and Afghanistan (162).
Yet in spite of this miserable situation and dark picture, several achievements took place in many areas. The Syrian Army, its allies and other forces liberated many areas from radical Islamic armed opposition groups like ISIS, Nusra Front and others. Main cities like Homs, Aleppo, Raqqa and recently Damascus became safer with the defeat, surrender and departure of the radical Islamic armed groups. This security situation expanded the zone of safe areas in Syria in which people are not threatened by physical violence on their lives. Some families could go back to their homes and start the process of renovation.
We are still hoping for safety and security in other areas, such as the Hama suburbs and the southern part of Syria, so that normal life may return to its people and society.
Meanwhile, several factors combine to bring attention to the dire humanitarian situation in Syria. Millions of people have lost their jobs and remain unemployed. Prices of everyday goods have been inflated and the Syrian currency has been greatly depreciated. In U.S. dollars, the monthly average income in Syria is $100/month per family; while a family of 5 members needs an average of $690 for housing and basic needs.
The following table shows the average monthly income in U.S. dollars in some of the Arab countries:
As for the Christian community and churches in Syria, they are still active and witnessing to their faith in spite of existential threats, displacement and immigration, which has led to a decrease in the number of the Christians.
In the midst of this dark situation, our partner churches and NGOs have been trying to light a candle. Since 2012, our NESSL (National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon) partners have provided relief for displaced people in Syria. Through its ongoing relief work, NESSL provides assistance to the needy, not only among its own members, but to all who seek help.
This appeal for funds will meet the physical, psychological, and spiritual needs of the Syrian population accessible to NESSL's local relief committees in 19 different regions across Syria.
Assistance is targeted for war-afflicted and displaced people, regardless of religion: school-aged children, families, sick people, displaced people, low-income families, elderly people, widows and households headed by women, and those who are unemployed.
Your generous donations allow the Relief Program to fund:
- Winter heating fuel
- Water for drinking and hygiene; purchasing water or digging wells
- Rent assistance; for the 7 million people displaced from their homes in Syria, rent constitutes about 75% of their monthly expenses
- Tuition scholarships and materials for school-aged children attending the NESSL schools
- Psychosocial and spiritual support to strengthen war-afflicted people
- Spring and Summer conferences for youth, young adults, and women; includes transportation and accommodations for 400 people
The Current Relief Project
The current project for relief is NESSL’s fourth relief project. It started on September 2016 and will end by December 2018. The goal of the project is to cover the basic needs of some war affected families and individuals through the Presbyterian Churches in Syria. Each church has a certain amount of assistance based on the people in need it can reach and help.
The current project covers people’s needs by assisting them through:
Schooling: 3 payments
Fuel for heating: 3 payments
Medication: 2 payments
Rent for houses: 4 payments
Food: 5 payments
Water & hygiene: 4 payments
Fuel for churches: 3 payments
Additional assistance: 2 payments
Psychosocial and spiritual support (vonferences and meetings)
Since September 2016 through the end of December 2018, the actual and projected amount of funds distributed through the NESSL Relief & Rehabilitation Project totals $1,421,750.
Challenges and Hopes
In addition to the regular challenges of the crisis, we are challenged to increase our response to the needs of the people. My assessment is that each family needs at least $50 more per month than we are currently providing, to help cover their basic expenses. This means $600 per year for each family. The number of families served is between 1,350 and 1,500. If the NESSL Relief Program provided $600 to each family, the monetary need is between $810,000 and $900,000 for one year. And this amount does not include the response to special needs such as medication, schooling and rent.
The financial need pushes us and our partners to raise more funds for our relief projects.
Additionally, we should work on the speed of response to urgent needs. The strict and bureaucratic system used by relief agencies in sending funds protects the relief agency from any possible corruption or abuse; however, it sometimes affects the flexibility and timeliness of NESSL’s response to needs.
Signs of hope started to appear with the end of violence in several places. This has helped stop the deterioration of the situation, with all its destructive and negative consequences. It has also This helped us to respond to the current situation with minimal unexpected surprises. The founding of Siraj, an NGO related to NESSL, will help us improve and expand our diakonia ministry and projects.
Seven years have passed in which we experienced what is best expressed in the words of Lamentations 3:22 – 23
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassion never fails.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Your solidarity with us has been a great channel through which we experienced God’s Love, Mercy, Compassion and Faithfulness.
On behalf of the Relief & Rehabilitation Program at NESSL, the churches, pastors, volunteers serving in the field of relief, and the beneficiaries; we would like to thank all of you for your commitment to partner with us. Thank you for the love and support you have shown along the years.
God bless you,
Rev. Salam Hanna
Syrian Civil War Map
A live, interactive map showing the fighting factions in Syria is available online. The site is “dedicated to delivering the latest news as well as the most accurate and unbiased information about the Syrian and Iraqi conflict. Unlike other websites we do not use online and public sources. We are in contact with many people living in Syria and Iraq. These people provide information about the current circumstances in the conflict areas.”
You can see the map -- updated at least daily at Syriancivilwarmap.com