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Syria: Millions of children now in the grip of hunger after 10 years of war

The brutal war in Syria continues to exact a terrible toll on the country's children: one out of three displaced children in Idlib is severely malnourished. Photo: IDA/Malteser International

Cologne/Idlib.  Malteser International is urging the international community not to forget the suffering of children in Syria as the country approaches the 10-year mark in its civil war. Over 2 million children in Idlib, in north-west Syria, have only known a life of fear and displacement. Continued hostilities in the region have also worsened their health with one out of three children now severely malnourished.

Dr. Salah Safadi, Medical Program Advisor for Malteser International in Syria, said: "Malnutrition leads to severe and often irreversible damages to the physical, motor, and cognitive development of infants, including delayed walking skills, stunted growth, and learning disabilities. Some cases have been fatal. Between 20 and 40 per cent of expectant women and nursing mothers in Idlib are also malnourished, desperate and have only little to give their children. Many of them are not even able to breastfeed."

Speaking on the grim anniversary, Clemens Graf von Mirbach-Harff, Secretary General of Malteser International, said: “An entire generation of the Syria’s young citizens have known nothing but conflict and suffering. Our efforts must now be directed towards them. They are the future of the country and should not be forgotten.”

Since the beginning of the civil war, Malteser International has been working with local partners inside Syria to provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance, improved water and sanitation, and urgent medical care for children, women, and displaced families. "Relief workers in Idlib would usually go through streets and around villages seeking out people in need of aid," said Dr. Safadi. "This is how we reach the children who cannot be brought to our clinics."

Ten years on, the conflict in Syria has also had grave psychological consequences for children in the country. “They are constantly living in fear of being targeted in the next attack. Many of them are suffering post-traumatic disorder. This conflict will have long-term impacts on the mental health of this generation”, said Dr. Safadi.

Malteser International is the humanitarian relief agency of the Sovereign Order of Malta. With over 100 projects in 29 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas, Malteser International supports those affected by poverty, disease, conflict and disaster, helping them lead a healthy life with dignity – without distinction of religion, race or political persuasion. Christian values and the humanitarian principles build the foundation of our work. For more information: www.malteser-international.org and www.orderofmalta.int

For editors:
Janine Lietmeyer, Head of Regional Group Middle East, and Dr. Salah Safadi, , Medical Program Advisor in Syria, are available for interviews.

For further information, please contact:
Katharina Kiecol
+49 (0)221 9822 7181,
katharina.kiecol(at)malteser-international.org

Malteser International is calling for donations to support relief efforts in Syria:
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Contact

Katharina Kiecol
+49-(0)221-9822-7181
Email: katharina.kiecol(at)malteser-international.org

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