Malnutrition has remained a major concern—especially among pregnant women, newborns, infants and young children—throughout the Syrian crisis. High levels of food insecurity in the country, due to agricultural damages in the destruction of crops and livestock and escalating food prices, have put pregnant and breastfeeding women at high risk, increasing the rate of birth defects among newborns and stunting childhood development.
SRD has contributed to establishing greater food security in Syria since the organization’s inception in 2011, and since 2016 we have also instituted holistic nutritional programming targeting young developing children. We are addressing nutritional gaps through preventative and curative practices with a focus on both indigenous and IDP communities who are living in unstable conditions with limited means to sustainable income.
SRD’s nutrition programs assist pregnant and lactating women, young women and girls who were married early and children under the age of 5, all of whom are vulnerable groups in need of priority assistance. We have teamed up with medical workers—including doctors, midwives and nurses based at medical points and facilities serving displaced populations and other communities in need—to train them in best practices for assisting the identified vulnerable groups. Our nutrition interventions aim to educate and raise awareness at the household and community levels to ensure a high level of impact for such an urgent issue.
In Northern Syria, acute malnutrition, poor Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) knowledge and practices, micronutrient deficiencies and inadequate access to basic services such as food, health, water and sanitation are extremely prevalent.
SRD’s Nutrition Health Services in Northern Syria have been integrated into our health network—specifically our Maternity and Pediatric Hospitals that offer, as part of their services, nutritional counseling and IYCF consultations that provide education and support for breastfeeding to help encourage pregnant and lactating mothers to breastfeed their children, and our 3 Primary Mobile Health Clinics & Community Health Sites that also offer IYCF consultations and Nutrition services for women and children.
In December 2016, SRD established a Nutrition IYCF campaign targeting pregnant and lactating women and mothers of children under age 2 to raise awareness on the disadvantages of feeding infants milk-based formulas.
In 2017, SRD continued implementing the Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) program, one of the first community health nutrition initiatives in Southern Syria and first established by us in 2016 to empower women of reproductive age. The program seeks out pregnant and lactating women—many of whom are living as IDPs and vulnerable to food insecurity—to equip them with breastfeeding and nutrition knowledge that can enhance the well-being of their children and mitigate negative coping strategies that may harm them. The women receive counseling on the values of breastfeeding, a natural practice that presents numerous advantages in emergency settings, including: delivery of all necessary nutrients to children under 5, enhancement of childhood immunity, and decreasing the need for harmful breast milk alternatives that increase the potential for consuming contaminated water.
SRD’s Community Health Supervisor led a team of trained community health workers on IYCF and the best ways to communicate medical information to households. Aided by educational materials and breastfeeding kits, the health workers engaged Syrian women in critical conversations about the lifesaving and life-sustaining potential of simple health practices such as breastfeeding. The health workers formed ongoing relationships with beneficiaries and communities at large by reaching them in their homes, with the goal of overcoming barriers to access the services needed to enhance the health and well-being of Syrians.