UN agencies and NGOs call for appropriate feeding of infants and young children in the Syria emergency

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A Syrian refugee woman holds her child

Four United Nations agencies and two non-governmental organizations have called for promoting breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding.

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 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.

The nutrition partners also strongly discourage 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.

They say 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.

According to the joint statement, 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. It says 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.

And it stresses that breastfeeding confers critical protection from infection especially where safe water is unavailable and there is poor sanitation. Breastfeeding saves lives.

The nutrition partners suggest that 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.

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 1’43″

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