An assessment of the nutritional status of displaced children under five living in collective shelters and the host community in Syria has found a “serious” level of global acute malnutrition rate in three governorates, with a “poor” overall nutrition situation.

The Rapid Nutrition Assessment provides a sampling of the nutritional status of displaced children living in collective shelters and the host community in Syria. It is the first large-scale assessment of its type to be completed since the start of the crisis in Syria in March 2011. 

The study found that three governorates – Hama, Aleppo and Deir-ez-Zor – exhibited Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates among children sampled above 10 per cent: a nutrition situation considered as “serious” according to WHO standards. The overall GAM rate was 7.2 per cent, while the Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) rate was 2.3 per cent – levels that indicate a “poor” nutrition situation based on WHO classification. 

The study also found that close to four-fifths (79.8 per cent) of displaced families reported that they were dependent on a combination of food aid and purchased food. About 29 per cent of families said that they did not have enough food for all family members during the week prior to the assessment, including a lack of access in many cases to meat, eggs and dairy products. Of these families, 70 per cent said that they had reduced their number of meals.

This comes on top of the Syrian Humanitarian Needs Overview, issued in by OCHA November, which estimates that 4 million children and women are in need of prevention of under nutrition and nutrition treatment services for acutely malnourished children within Syria. 

“The study provides a disturbing picture of the impact of the continuing conflict on the nutritional status of displaced children. Inadequate nutrition risks long-term effects on children’s well-being and can lead to death in extreme cases if not detected early and treated,” says Hanaa Singer, UNICEF Representative to Syria. 

“Children are receiving nutrition assistance in accessible areas, but the nutrition situation is likely to be worse for children in hard-to-reach parts of the country.” 

“Moving forward, the results are already informing the humanitarian response on children’s nutrition and allowing for a more targeted approach to help those children most in need,” Ms. Singer noted.

In 2015, UNICEF requires $21.1 million in order to scale up its nutrition programme, strengthening prevention of under nutrition and promotion of optimal practices; screening more children for malnutrition; providing more nutritional support; and increased training on nutrition.

The Rapid Nutrition Assessment was conducted by the Nutrition sector in Syria in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Central Bureau of Statistics, along with support from UNICEF.

The assessment was carried out between March and July 2014 in 13 of Syria’s 14 governorates. Enumerators visited 3,361 displaced families who lived in collective shelters and in the host community. The nutrition situation of close to 4,500 children was assessed – through a combination of survey questions and measurements, including height, weight and mid-upper arm circumference while checking presence of nutritional oedema– with complete data collected for 3,514 children.  

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Notes for editors

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