Appropriate feeding of children in the Syria emergency is vital

29.01.2013 16:47

Report fromWorld Health Organization, World Food Programme, UN Children's Fund, International Orthodox Christian Charities, International Medical Corps,
UN High Commissioner for Refugees
AMMAN/NEW YORK, 28 January 2013 – Four UN agencies and two NGOs today strongly urged those involved in the response to the Syria crisis and people displaced in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey to avoid unnecessary illness and death in children by promoting breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding and strongly discouraging the uncontrolled distribution and use of breast-milk substitutes (e.g. infant formula), bottles and teats and other powdered or liquid milk and milk products.

UNICEF, the UN refugee agency, the World Health Organization, World Food Programme, International Medical Corps, and International Organization of Christian Charities/Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch said that statistics showed that in serious emergency situations, such as the one currently facing those affected by the Syria crisis, disease and associated death rates among under-5 children are higher than for any other age group.

The risk of dying is particularly high because of the combined impact of communicable diseases and diarrhea together with possible increases in rates of under-nutrition as people flee their homes. The people inside Syria and those displaced may find themselves often in very difficult and unsanitary conditions thus can be at major risk of serious water-borne diseases. Breastfeeding confers critical protection from infection especially where safe water is unavailable and there is poor sanitation. Breastfeeding saves lives.

Artificial feeding with breast-milk substitutes in an emergency carries high risks of malnutrition, illness and death and is a last resort only when other safer options have first been fully explored and deemed unavailable.

Where the use of breast-milk substitutes is unavoidable, the partners only recommend ready-to-use formula that should adhere to the International Code for Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. Any distribution and use of breast-milk substitutes should be carefully monitored to ensure that only infants who have no possibility to breastfeed receive them and that they are used safely.

The nutrition partners said that, in line with internationally accepted standards, donations of infant formula, bottles and teats and other powdered or liquid milk and milk products should not be made. Past emergencies show that an excessive quantity of poorly targeted products can actually endanger infants’ lives.

All queries and any information about donations should be directed to UNICEF, the designated nutrition coordinating agency in the Middle East and North Africa emergency operation.

For more information please contact:
UNICEF Nutrition Section, New York:
Nune Mangasaryan,, tel: +1 212 326 7159
Erin Boyd,, tel: + 1 212 326 7348
UNICEF office in Amman:
Mahendra Sheth, Regional Health Advisor,, +962796663399 James King’ori, Regional Nutrition Specialist,, +962799499729
UNHCR office in Geneva:
Caroline Wilkinson, Senior Nutritoin Officer,, + 41 22 739 74 86

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