Engaging Syrian mothers to fight malnutrition
Abd Abdulkader Al Sulaiman witnessed first-hand the toll of war on the most vulnerable people in Syria.
As Project Manager at Mercy-USA for Aid and Development (MUSA), he oversees a team of rapid responders comprised of a nutritionist, midwife, nurse, community health workers and data analyst. What bounds them together is their commitment to preventing and combating malnutrition.
“Life in camps is marked by crippled basic services, hunger and poverty. Even if food is available, there is not enough variety to fully meet a person’s nutritional needs,” he said.
Today, at least one in three children in north-west Syria is at risk of losing their developmental potential due to chronic malnutrition. The prevalence of anemia is particularly high among mothers and children under the age of five.
Abdulkader’s team is among MUSA’s 25 Rapid Response Teams working with Syrian mothers on good feeding practices and screening for early detection of malnutrition. Counseling sessions on breastfeeding are also provided to pregnant women.
Abdulkader says, “The frequent movement of families is a big challenge. People living in camps often do not stay in the same area making it harder for us to monitor progress and do our follow-up work.”
Using WhatsApp, the team is able to track families, and refer them to another MUSA project, nutrition center or health facility in the new location. Mothers are also asked to provide updates and photos via the messaging app as part of the follow-up process.
Coordination with referral networks also plays a key role. In case of a shortage of supplements, for instance, the Rapid Response Team is able to quickly connect with neighboring nutrition centers to get additional supplies, allowing families to continue their treatment without disruption.
“We have trust from community leaders and mothers. We have trust from our field partners. This is why we are able to do all this coordination work,” notes Abdulkader.
“But even with these efforts, big gaps still persist especially in hard-to-reach areas where hunger remains chronic. The international community must continue supporting vulnerable people in Syria.”
15 Rapid Response Teams under MUSA are financially supported by the Syria Cross-border Humanitarian Fund (SCHF), a country-based pooled fund managed by OCHA Türkiye.