Northeast Syria: Child malnutrition rises over 150% amid worsening hunger crisis

AMMAN, November 10, 2022- The number of malnourished children in northeast Syria has increased by more than 150% in the last six months, with at least 10,000 more children now facing malnutrition than in the previous six months, according to new data.[i].

The news comes as Syria faces its worst economic crisis since the start of the war in 2011 with 90% of the 18 million population living in poverty (UN)[ii].

Save the Children staff reported that the number of malnourished children screened at its 19 nutrition centers in camps in northeast Syria and in community settings quadrupled, from 256 to more than 1,000, confirming the same worsening trend.[iii].

Sara Ali*, nutrition specialist at Save the Children, said:

‘Every day we have to deal with more malnourished children than the day before. Malnutrition is a threat to children’s lives. Poverty and inability to pay for food are the main reasons families give for this increase.”

Over the last three years, the combination of conflict, drought, the Lebanese financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic have caused the Syrian currency to free fall to historically low levels.

While median household income hasn’t increased, food prices soared nearly 800% between 2019 and 2021[iv] and keep going up in 2022[v]This massive price increase is forcing an increasing number of people to go hungry.

Maha*, 30, works as a scavenger and struggles to make ends meet to feed her five children, including the youngest, Ameen*, who is malnourished.

The war brought with it extreme hunger. before we I never had to worry about food availability despite being poor back then too.

‘Sometimes we skip meals to save something to eat for the next day. I don’t remember the last time my children ate meat or sweets. Sometimes they have a craving for meat and ask me to bring them some. I lie to them saying that I will do it the next day. I never. They won’t have anything to eat if I do. Our breakfast is always tea and bread only’”.

Beat Rohr, Acting Director of the Syrian Response Office, said:

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‘“After nearly 12 years of conflict in Syria, the worsening economic situation has become the main driver of need, despite continued armed conflict in many parts of the country. At least Currently, 60% of the population suffers from food insecurity and the situation is getting worse day by day.”

Save the Children calls on donors to step up efforts to address the hunger crisis and alleviate its devastating impacts on children. Although different organizations are working to provide food to the most vulnerable groups, the available resources are not enough to ensure that all children have access to balanced nutrition that is essential for their health and growth. The international community must urgently increase the availability of sufficient food for the most affected populations.

Save the Children is also calling the leaders gathering in Egypt for the COP27 climate change summit to acknowledge climate impacts already affecting communities and children around the world, such as the drought in northeast Syria, particularly those in low-income countries and those are affected by inequality and discrimination. Read more about our specific requests here.

Save the Children has been working in Syria since 2012, reaching more than five million people, including more than three million children across the country. Save the Children’s programming combines emergency and lifesaving interventions with early recovery activities that support the restoration of basic services, including child protection, education, emergency response, food security and livelihoods, sanitation of water and hygiene, as well as health and nutrition.

ENDS

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*name changed to protect anonymity

Notes to editors

  • At least one in three children under the age of 5 worldwide is affected by malnutrition in its most visible forms: stunting, wasting and overweight. Children affected by stunting (some 144 million under the age of 5) are too short for their age and their brains may never develop to their full cognitive potential, hampering their ability as children to learn, gain money as adults and contribute fully to their development. societies Wasting affects 47 million children worldwide. Wasting children are desperately thin, have weakened immune systems and face an increased risk of death – requiring urgent treatment and care to survive (UNICEF).
  • In Syria, Save the Children’s nutrition program focuses on Infant and Young Child Feeding Interventions in Emergencies (IYCF-E), promoting, protecting and supporting recommended infant and young child feeding practices for both prevention and treatment of malnutrition. Fresh food supplements aim to increase the access of pregnant and lactating women and children to a nutritious diet and reduce the risk of micronutrient deficiencies.
  • The nutrition sector in the Syrian Humanitarian Plan for 2022-2023 is still funded at less than 11% as of October 2022 (OCHA).
  • Around 5.5 million people in Syria will need direct nutritional assistance in 2022-2023, half of them in north-east Syria (WHO)
  • Another 5.5 million people were registered as food insecure[1] bringing the total to 12.4 million, approximately 60% of the country’s population.
  • The number of severely food insecure people has more than doubled from 135 million to 345 million since 2019[vi]. 222 million of these people face acute hunger (IPC 3), the highest number since records began[vii].
  • Some 45 million people in 37 countries are projected to have so little to eat that they will be severely malnourished, at risk of death, or already facing starvation and death.[viii]
  • Worldwide, at least 13.6 million children under the age of 5 suffer from severe acute malnutrition.[ix].

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[i] 16,895 from April to September 2022 vs 6,650 from October 2021 to March 2022, according to data from the Nutrition cluster

[ii] https://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/secretary-general-urges-security-consejo-expand-aid-access-syria-renew-solution-2585-2021-cross-border-operations-moral- imperative

[iii] This increase may be due in part to a community outreach campaign that took place.

[iv] Ramadan in Syria: rising food prices put basic goods out of reach | World Food Program (wfp.org)

[v] https://docs.wfp.org/api/documents/WFP-0000142857/download/

[vi] https://docs.wfp.org/api/documents/WFP-0000136949/download/?_ga=2.38257059.1286388886.1655649581-696087419.1654696734&_gac=1.53007706.1655131682.Cj0KCQjwwJuVBhCAARIsAOPwGAR6HTdtzBUarxdtlgky7kxr8o4Le-5lBK646IuCIgQWGO6twAK_hwwaArrrEALw_wcB