URGENT INTERVENTIONS TO SAVE MORE DISPLACED CHILDREN FROM THE RISKS OF MALNUTRITION
IDPs in northern Syria have too many concerns and ordeals to count. Living conditions, in general, are very harsh. Within the borders of every camp, signs of normal life begin to gradually fade, leaving behind scenes of torn-out tents that do not protect from cold or heat. Sources of livelihood are near to none, leaving the residents with a continuous battle against hunger and instability.
Hunger does not pass through here unnoticed. It leaves clear signs on the bodies, especially the bodies of the weakest. This is why Binaa for Development nutrition project was introduced to combat malnutrition among children and mothers. The project aims to provide a comprehensive response to achieve emergency food security for the most vulnerable IDPs and affected groups in Syria. The main target area in which the project was implemented was the governorate of Aleppo in the cities of Al-Bab and Jarabulus and the towns of Ghandoura and Akhtarin.
A total of 23 teams have been formed by Binaa to address the unprecedented spread of malnutrition among children in this area, including 14 monitoring teams, five awareness teams, and four referral and follow-up teams. The teams conduct daily visits to monitor and detect malnutrition cases and provide the necessary intervention.
The malnutrition response project is planned to cover over 300 camps in the Idlib region alone during 2021 and to reach the target number of 88,000 beneficiaries, including 66,000 children, and 22,000 pregnant and lactating women. The detection teams search for cases in the camps and assess the needs among those that require referral to specialists or those that can be treated in the camps. The teams also provide mothers with the necessary food supplements, in addition to instructions and guidance on malnutrition symptoms and how to take measurements of children and check their nutritional condition.
Among these cases was the case of little Jana - aged one year and nine months-, who was diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition. Salma, Jana’s mother, describes her little girl’s condition: “the very small amount of nutrition that goes into her body, the food that she eats, she does not benefit much from it.. when the vegetable seller passes by and calls: "bananas, apples", she starts crying: "mom, I want an apple .. I want a banana".. I hide my cry because I cannot provide for her.”
When the vegetable seller passes by and calls: "bananas, apples", she starts crying: "mom, I want an apple .. I want a banana".. I hide my cry because I cannot provide for her.”
Her weakness was clear to everyone, and this is why the Binaa referral team transferred her to the hospital. The supervisor of the referral team, Jamila Al-Asim, gave a description of the little girl’s condition: “Jana was suffering from severe acute malnutrition and her mother was also vulnerable… Jana was taken to the hospital to determine the type of treatment she needs… The specialists prescribed peanut butter and the treatment began with taking two sachets every day for 15 days. We explained to the mother how to give them to her child with large amounts of water throughout the day.”
The follow-up of Jana's case continued for three months, her indicators began to improve, as well as the mother who was provided with vitamins to improve her overall health condition and strength. Jamila says: "We visited the girl once every 15 days. We measured her MUAC (Mid-upper arm circumference) and thankfully, it was clear that her measurements improved and signs of health improvements appeared on her body... Also, her mother took vitamins to protect her from malnutrition... We made several visits to Jana for 3 consecutive months, and after 3 months, Jana was cured."
Thanks to these efforts, Jana recovered and was able to play with the rest of the children. Her mother, Salma, was clearly happy when she said:
"Her health has become better, and she is starting to play... She goes out to play with the children, moving and running... she’s completely changed."
Jana's story is similar to that of Omar, an 11 months old little boy whose mother Hadia noticed his health deteriorating and tried to seek the help of doctors, but to no avail. His weight kept dropping at the time when he should have grown and gained weight.
His mother explained the boy’s condition: “My son is sick. He was only three months old when we arrived in this camp, and we were displaced between so many camps… He only breastfed for three months.. as my milk dried up because of the bombing and displacement. I used to give him milk, but he kept getting weaker.”
Omar was nevertheless fortunate to be identified by the Binaa nutrition team arriving to the camps. When his measurements were taken, he was diagnosed with severe malnutrition and his treatment was initiated with the provision of peanut butter. Hadia explained these steps to us: "The organization came and examined him and took his measurements, and it turned out that he was malnourished. They gave me two bags of butter every day."
Omar's body responded to treatment and began to show signs of improvement and activity, and become more and more similar to children of his age. He began laughing, calling, and standing on his feet, even his teeth began to appear. His mother explains:
"Thankfully, I notice his development every week, not every month. Before that, he did not move, and now he is standing on his feet, shouting out loud, asking for water, laughing and crying, even his teeth began to appear."
Jana and Omar were among the fortunate children, yet there are thousands of other children who still need help. Binaa for Development continues to reach out to all children, improve the food security conditions, and raise the levels of preventive and curative nutrition in the targeted camps.
Despite the tragedies of war and displacement that all IDPs continue to experience, the presence of organizations that seek to provide sustainable support offers a glimmer of hope for many. Such initiatives contribute to improving their conditions and restore a sense of stability and normality.