Child malnutrition in North-East Syria increases over 150% amid worsening hunger crisis

The news comes as Syria faces its worst economic crisis since the start of the war in 2011 with 90% of the 18 million strong population living in poverty (UN).

The number of malnourished children in North-East Syria has surged by over 150% in the past six months with at least 10,000 more children now facing malnutrition than in the previous six months, according to new data.

Save the Children staff reported a fourfold increase – from 256 to over 1000 - in the number of malnourished children screened in its 19 nutrition centres in camps in North-East Syria and in community settings, confirming the same worsening trend.

Save the Children’s Nutrition specialist Sara Ali said:

‘’Every day we have to deal with more malnourished children than the day before. Malnutrition is life threatening to children. Poverty and the inability to afford food are the main reasons families are giving for this increase.”

Over the past three years, the combination of conflict, drought, the Lebanese financial crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic have caused a free-fall of the Syrian currency to historically low levels.

While the average family income has not increased, food prices skyrocketed by almost 800% between 2019 and 2021 and continue to rise in 2022. This massive price hike is forcing an ever-increasing number of people to go hungry. 

Maha, 30, works as a waste scavenger and is struggling to make ends meet to feed her five children, including her youngest Ameen, who is malnourished.

“The war brought extreme hunger with it. Before, we never had to worry about food being available, despite being poor back then too.

“Sometimes we skip meals to save something to eat for the next day. I cannot remember the last time my children had meat or sweets. Sometimes they crave meat and ask me to get them some. I lie to them, saying that I will the next day. I never do. They will have nothing to eat if I do. Our breakfast is always tea and bread only.”

Beat Rohr, Interim Syria Response Office Director, said:

“After almost 12 years of conflict in Syria, the worsening economic situation has become the main driver of needs, despite continued armed conflict in many parts of the country. At least 60% of the population is currently food insecure, and the situation is getting worse by the day.”  

Save the Children is calling on donors to step up efforts to tackle the hunger crisis and alleviate its devastating impacts on children, saying, “While different organisations are working to provide food to the most vulnerable groups, the resources available are not sufficient to assure all children have access to balanced nutrition that is essential for their health and growth. The international community must urgently increase the availability of sufficient food to the most affected populations.”

Save the Children is also calling on leaders gathering in Egypt for the COP27 climate change summit to recognise the climate impacts already affecting communities and children across the world, like the drought in North East Syria, particularly those from low-income countries and those who are affected by inequality and discrimination.