Food Shortages Put Syria's Children at Risk of Malnutrition, Save the Children Warns

Tuesday 24 September 2013

A lack of access to food, soaring prices and a collapse in food production has left the children of Syria at risk of malnutrition, Save the Children warned today.

The aid agency has gathered testimonies from refugees in neighboring countries, as well as residents trapped by fighting and enduring siege-like conditions, who detailed families' desperate struggle to feed their children.

Read the report: Hunger in a War Zone

More than four million Syrians — more than two million of them children — are unable to produce or buy enough food, with many thousands living under fire and with no access to all but the bare minimum foodstuffs needed to survive. Save the Children is already seeing reports that one in 20 children in rural Damascus is severely malnourished.

Save the Children has heard refugee accounts of children forced to subsist off nothing more than lentils or bread for days on end, with one family trapped in their basement by explosions eating just half a piece of bread each over the course of four days.

In a briefing on the state of hunger in Syria, released today, Save the Children also details how severe food shortages are being compounded by an explosion in food prices. The cost of even the most basic food items has spiralled out of control with the cost of the most basic supplies increasing 100 percent.

Among the testimonies Save the Children has gathered:

  • It was very dangerous for me and my children — we had no food and were always hungry. When this hunger had continued for two months and we were very weak, that is when we decided to flee. We realized we would starve if we stayed in Syria. – Roula, mother
  • The price of food doubled in my village and we couldn't afford to eat at all. Milk, bread, everything — doubled. The children became very hungry all the time. And with no nutrients, they also became sick. – Jinan, mother of Siba, 3
  • Because of a lack of food, my children didn't grow as they should. They started losing weight, and it was all we could do to keep them alive. – Maryam, mother of two

The war has shattered Syria's economy, and the United Nations now estimates close to seven million inhabitants have been plunged into poverty since fighting began. In addition, Syria's agriculture and infrastructure are collapsing, with grain production falling to less than half of what was typical before the war.

"The world has stood and watched as the children of Syria have been shot, shelled and traumatized by the horror of war. The conflict has already left thousands of children dead, and is now threatening their means of staying alive," said Roger Hearn, Save the Children's regional director for the Middle East.

"That some children are going to bed trapped amid fighting — terrified, alone, vulnerable — and with empty stomachs ought to be a stain on all our consciences.

"We understand there is a political debate over what to do next in Syria, but we believe everyone can agree on the critical need for safe humanitarian access across the entire country. There is no room for delay or argument: Syria's children must not be allowed to go hungry."

A lack of security makes gathering data on child malnutrition rates extremely difficult throughout Syria. However, all available evidence — including spiralling food costs, a collapse of infrastructure and food production, and testimonies of individuals' experiences with hunger — suggests Syria's children are facing a mounting struggle to feed themselves.