Nutrition in Syria

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What is the current situation with regard to nutrition in Syria?

  • What is the best method to address undernutrition?

  • How should longer term malnutrition (stunting) in a humanitarian crisis be addressed?

1. Overview

The nutritional situation in Syria is serious, with high levels of food insecurity and rising malnutrition. Key findings are as follows:

  • The UN estimates that seven million people inside Syria are food-insecure, or unable to meet basic food needs, while an additional two million are at risk of becoming foodinsecure (USAID, 2017).

  • 70 per cent of the population in and around Damascus have had no access to safe drinking water since December 2016 (ibid). Rural Homs only received safe drinking water at the end of April 2017 (Medair, 2017).

  • Iron deficiency anaemia is highly prevalent in pregnant or lactating women (PLW) (24.5 per cent) (Kern, 2017)) and children under five years of age (25.9 per cent) (FAO, 2015;
    Kern, 2017).

  • Acute malnutrition is reported as 7.8 per cent in women of child bearing age (CBA) (Kern, 2017).

  • In children, the level of acute malnutrition amongst under 5s is found to be within “acceptable levels” with a Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate of three per cent (UNICEF, 2017a). However, three governorates reportedly have GAM rates above 10 per cent (FAO Representation in Syria, 2016:14). Prevalence rate of stunting (due to chronic malnutrition) in under 5s is 12.7 per cent (UNICEF, 2017a; Kern, 2017).

  • Among adolescents, significant gender differences were found in amount and type of food items consumed; this finding could be applied to nutritional interventions aimed at all school-aged children.

  • The crisis has reversed development gains for Syria that had been poised to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

  • A number of current programmes exist to treat malnutrition, but the need for Communitybased Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) programmes remains “very critical”, especially in besieged (BSG) areas, where many children have been suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM).

  • As well as providing therapeutic foodstuffs and access to treatment centres, lessons learned in reducing malnutrition include combating anaemia in CBA women, and infections in under 5s