Government’s efforts to confront child malnutrition under crisis in full swing

Homs, SANA – The Health Ministry in Syria has raised the preparedness level to face the problem of malnutrition, particularly among children under five, a problem that raised some concerns for fear of it posing a danger under the crisis currently raging in the country.

The crisis, promoted by an internationally-orchestrated terrorist war waged against Syria, has been going on for almost four years, during which hundreds of thousands of mercenary terrorists have flooded the country coming from all corners of the world to commit atrocities in implementation of foreign agendas.

The crisis has actually taken a huge toll on all aspects of life in Syria, with children being among the hardest hit, having to flee their homes with their families and missing out on their education after being forced to leave their schools, and in some cases taking a while to be able to get enrolled in others, to say nothing of children being kidnapped, tortured and recruited by terrorist groups to bear arms and join the fighting.

The health situation, however, is no less important than all those setbacks facing children under the current circumstances, and this situation has unfortunately deteriorated especially in “insecure” areas where access to food and necessary nutrients and medical supplies are constantly blocked due to the terrorists’ acts.

In response to this emerging situation, the Health Ministry has embarked on various programs to ward off the risk of child malnutrition.

Central among those steps are the programs for nutritional surveillance, encouraging breastfeeding, promote right supplementary feeding, fighting micronutrient deficiency, therapeutic and preventive feeding, and securing adequate and appropriate nutrition to ensure the optimal health of infants and children.

SANA spoke to Director of Healthcare in Homs province Abdul-Mu’men Qashlaq to learn more about those programs and the mechanisms of implementing them.

The nutritional surveillance program, which seems to be the most important, said Qashlaq, aims at improving health and nutritional status in society after detecting indicators of malnutrition, particularly in children, as well as developing treatment and prevention policies.

He pointed out that, besides the aforementioned reasons which have left a significant impact on the nutrition situation in the country, the sharp increase in the prices of food and other items triggered by the various repercussions of the crisis, is another factor that has compounded the problem.

In an attempt to confront this and the other factors and prevent potential risks, Qashlaq said, a variety of measures have been taken to that effect.

Giving an example of those various measures that are being applied in Homs, Qashlaq told SANA reporter that the Nutrition Department at the Health Directorate in the province has activated the program of nutrition surveillance at the health centers as well as in the makeshift shelters which host displaced families who fled the appalling inhumane acts committed by terrorist organizations in their home areas.

He added that the Directorate instructed health centers, shelters, and specialized mobile teams to employ the MUAC nutrition indicator to detect malnutrition cases among targeted children.

Peanut butter, a nutritional supplement known for being helpful for malnutrition cases, is being regularly distributed to health centers and makeshift centers, a measure Qashlaq said is part of a nutritional surveillance plan set up by the Health Ministry and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Children who are diagnosed with malnutrition are put on special therapeutic nutrition diets, according to Ismael Hussein, Head of Health Education Department in Homs.

To bring these efforts to fruition, the Health Ministry has stepped up cooperation with concerned international organizations besides the WHO; most important among them is the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICF).

Together, Hussein said, the Ministry and the UNICEF have secured a special type of formula that treats acute cases of malnutrition to be distributed to health and makeshift residential centers, confirming that no such severe cases were detected in children during the past two years. However, 5 malnutrition cases of intermediate degree had been detected in al-Waer area and were treated, he added.

Malnutrition causes the death of 3 million children under the age of 5 every year in the world, according to the statistics of the WHO.

Bashar Mousa / Haifa Said / Hazem Sabbagh

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