Home > Covid-19 > Aleppo in lockdown – living through COVID-19 in Syria

The Syrian city of Aleppo bore the brunt of much of the Syrian war, hundreds of thousands of residents fled and many thousands lost their lives as the city was carved out between warring factions.


Aleppo, Syria (credit: Creative Commons)

In February of this year Aleppo opened up again after the Syrian government regained control of the city. But within weeks, Aleppo went back into lockdown, this time in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Shops, schools, universities and many services have shut their doors, leaving people who are vulnerable out of reach of services

The Blue Marists have been active in Aleppo since 1986, the charity is affiliated to the Marist Brothers, providing aid and development with the help of teams of young volunteers.

When Aleppo went into lockdown in March, the Blue Marists stepped in to provide support for residents who are elderly, providing a Syrian version of Meals on Wheels: hot meals delivered to elderly people who are living alone, in isolation around the city.  

Blue Marist volunteers preparing deliveries


“It’s Syrian cuisine, lots of fresh vegetables,” the Blue Marists’ Nabil Antaki tells Misean Cara from Aleppo. “Twice a week we provide a meal with meat, the other days we make rice, bulghur, salad and vegetables, along with 2 pieces of fruit – apple and an orange as well.”


The Blue Marists’ team use a small kitchen to prepare the meals every day, the charity’s young volunteers going out with deliveries. They are often the only visitors for these people whose lives were shattered by Syria’s war; many have lost members of their family, their children have fled the conflict and are now based in Europe or neighbouring countries.  


The Blue Marists’ team use a small kitchen to prepare the meals every day, the charity’s young volunteers going out with deliveries. They are often the only visitors for these people whose lives were shattered by Syria’s war; many have lost members of their family, their children have fled the conflict and are now based in Europe or neighbouring countries.  

Fresh vegetables from the market being prepared in the Blue Marists’ kitchen.

The meals are prepared by a group of women who volunteer with the Blue Marists – they are themselves survivors of the conflict. “Before the war this was a city of 2.5 million people,” explains Nabil. “Today the population is about 1.5 million. For five years we lived with mortar shelling every day, the water and power supply was cut off. Life wasn’t safe until February of this year.”

The war has devastated much of Syria, not just its infrastructure but also the fabric of society.

“In our country, neighbours are very important,” explains Nabil. “Usually neighbours visit each other and help each other. We value good relationships between neighbours and big families – including uncles and cousins; that was before the war. Now families are made up of 1 or 2 people. And neighbours have very little to share – they are all very poor, they live alone; they just don’t have enough to help each other. But they do small things – for example, if someone is bedridden, then the neighbour will open the door for us to deliver the meals.”

Blue Marist volunteers setting out on foot to deliver meals.


So what of the future, once Syria emerges from this latest lockdown? The Blue Marists have already made a commitment to the elderly people they have got to know during this COVID-19 period. “We met up this weekend to evaluate the programme,” says Nabil. “Everyone – unanimously – said that this programme has to continue. These elderly people have survived so many years of conflict. We can’t turn away from their loneliness and need. We just have to find a way.”

The Blue Marist team in Aleppo in their characteristic blue outfits.



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