The Urgent Humanitarian Crisis: Combating Malnutrition in North West Syria
Over the past twelve years, the Syrian conflict has inflicted profound humanitarian suffering, with food insecurity emerging as the most pressing issue. In northwestern Syria, approximately 3.3 million civilians are grappling with starvation and deprivation, demanding immediate and extensive efforts to address this dire crisis. This blog sheds light on the escalating malnutrition crisis and the remarkable interventions undertaken to save lives in the face of overwhelming challenges.
The Escalating Malnutrition Crisis:
The 2022 Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) paints a grim picture, revealing a stark increase in People in Need (PIN) numbers across various malnutrition parameters starting in 2020. Chronic malnutrition has risen by 4%, Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) cases by 29%, and Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) cases by a staggering 44.7%. The situation is dire for Pregnant and Lactating Women (PLWs), with approximately 265,000 urgently requiring malnutrition treatment. Alarming data from the latest SMART survey exposes the suffering of 220,000 children under the age of five in northwestern Syria, battling severe wasting—a condition with life-threatening consequences. Even more concerning is the projection that 50,000 children will face severe wasting in 2023, risking their lives, especially when compounded by medical complications like cholera.
The earthquake in February 2023 compounded the suffering in northern Syria and southern Turkey, resulting in extensive property and infrastructure damage. The subsequent proliferation of makeshift camps added to the hardships of camp residents who lost homes, possessions, and sources of income. These informal camps lack essential services and amenities, including healthcare facilities, exposing the population to health risks and diseases. The absence of healthcare facilities and the presence of pollution contribute to an increase in malnutrition among children.
Saad’s Struggle: A Glimpse into Malnutrition Realities:
Saad’s story portrays the harsh reality faced by countless children in northwestern Syria. Displaced from the southern countryside of Aleppo to the Deir Hassan camps in the northern countryside of Idlib, Saad confronts severe malnutrition amidst daunting living conditions. His family resides in a small tent, reliant on humanitarian aid to survive. This story represents one of many and is shared by many displaced individuals in camps across the region, where monthly aid falls short for larger families. Limited job opportunities and a significant population density increase further exacerbate their hardship, particularly for families led by women or children under 18 following the loss of the primary breadwinner.
Saad’s story is just one among thousands of children in northwestern Syria battling malnutrition, their lives hanging in the balance. Their stories serve as a reminder of the dire circumstances faced by displaced children and families in Syria.
Hand in Hand for Aid and Development’s Response:
Rapid Response Teams (RRT) at Hand in Hand for Aid and Development, supported by Japan Platform, are at the forefront of efforts to combat malnutrition. These teams track malnutrition cases, provide education, awareness sessions, and offer vital support to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and children under the age of 2 years old. Those facing severe acute malnutrition are referred to specialized hospitals. In the face of daunting challenges, these interventions offer hope and a lifeline to those most vulnerable.
A Beacon of Hope: Hassan’s Recovery:
Hassan Al-Khalif, a displaced child residing in the Bardakli camps, embodies resilience and hope amidst adversity. He successfully recovered from malnutrition and his health improved thanks to the dedicated efforts of the Rapid Response Team. The Hand in Hand for Aid and Development RRT team administered vital nutritional supplements and provided vital guidance and awareness to Hassan’s mother. Hassan’s case is just one story of the thousands of individuals being assisted by this Nutrition Project. Thanks to the support of our partners this project aims to support 20,328 pregnant and breastfeeding women alongside 43,560 children under the age of five in northwest Syria.