Deadly malnutrition is threatening Syrian children says Dr. Rajia Sharhan of UNICEF. Having just witnessed the hunger and suffering in the town of Madaya, Dr.Sharhan said yesterday “It’s becoming here more visible that malnutrition exists in the besieged areas.”
Over 13 million Syrians need humanitarian aid because of the five year civil war. But many Syrians live in areas under siege and blocked by military forces from receiving deliveries of life-saving food and medicine.
Madaya is one of those towns. This month UNICEF and other relief agencies were finally allowed back into Madaya for the first time since October. What aid workers saw was shocking. There was malnutrition and death right before their eyes.
Dr. Sharhan says “Children need Plumpy Nut, Supplementary Plumpy and Plumpy Doz in addition to micronutrient interventions.” Plumpy is an enriched peanut paste which can save children from malnutrition, but only if aid workers can reach them.
Children who suffer with malnutrition will have lasting physical and mental damage unless treated in time. Or they may perish as some have tragically in Madaya and other areas under siege.
Humanitarian agencies are demanding full and regular access to areas under siege in Syria. UNICEF’s Hanna Singer says the relief agency “reiterates its previous call on all parties to the conflict to lift the siege on communities in Syria and provide unimpeded, unconditional and sustained humanitarian access to allow teams to conduct assessments of health, nutrition and other humanitarian needs, the provision of on-site medical and nutritional therapeutic care and the immediate medical evacuation of women and children in critical condition.”
There is hope that a nationwide ceasefire can be implemented which would allow relief supplies to flow into areas of need. The ceasefire would coincide with peace talks in Geneva.
Dr. Sharhan says the relief agencies hope to send another convoy of supplies to the Madaya area on Saturday. The convoy will contain three months of supplies.
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