A Scottish charity has expanded its school feeding programme into Syria to help youngsters rebuild their lives following years of civil war.
Mary’s Meals said it is working in six schools in Aleppo, alongside Dutch organisation Dorcas to provide nearly 1,500 children with a daily meal in their place of education.
The programme is designed to encourage children, who for a large part of their lives have endured unimaginable trauma, into the classroom where they can receive a nutritious meal and an education, the charity said.
Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, Mary’s Meals’ founder and chief executive, said: “After a four-year-long battle for Aleppo and tens of thousands of deaths, the siege – at least for now – is over.
“At last children have the chance to start regaining their lost childhoods.
“Through Mary’s Meals, both the immediate, desperate needs of today and the longer-term necessity of education will be nourished and nurtured through each meal served by local volunteers.
“The promise of this simple meal, made possible by the continuing love and generosity of Mary’s Meals supporters all over the world, will provide hope and encouragement to communities taking their first tentative steps on a very long and uncertain road to recovery,” Mr MacFarlane-Barrow added.
About 1.7 million children are out of school in Syria and 69 per cent of the population are living in extreme poverty, the organisation says.
The expansion into Syria follows a pilot programme in Lebanon, where Mary’s Meals and Dorcas provided meals to Syrian refugee children and their classmates in a school near Beirut last year.
The charity provides daily meals to more than 1.1 million children in 14 countries around the world.
Yesterday Syrian opposition activists reported that government warplanes were pounding a rebel-held neighbourhood in the central city of Homs, killing at least three and wounding dozens.
The strikes came a day after the al-Waer neighbourhood was subjected to more than 40 air raids that killed and wounded dozens.
They appeared to be in retaliation for militant attacks in the city on Saturday that killed a senior security officer and at least 31 others.
The swift, high-profile attacks against the military intelligence and state security offices were claimed by an al-Qaeda-linked insurgent coalition known as the Levant Liberation Committee.