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A baby held by her mother eating nutritional supplements to help her recover from malnutrition
1 May 2024

Ending child malnutrition in Syria

How Syrian children are recovering from undernutrition.

Conflict – as well as climate change – is causing hunger and child malnutrition.  

When children don’t have enough nutritious food in their diet, the consequences can be deadly. 

According to the World Food Programme, children living in conflict zones are “more than twice as likely to suffer from malnutrition” than those who live elsewhere.  

Keep reading to hear personal stories from malnourished children in Syria, and how we're supporting their recovery.

Conflict in Syria threatens children's lives

In Syria – a country where more than 6.8 million people have been internally displaced by conflict – malnutrition is threatening children’s lives. It’s also threatening their future health with more than 650,000 under-fives stunted (short height for age) – a concerning increase of more than 100,000 since 2019. 

 Smiling child standing in a green field holding her toy
Enas is one of 329,000 children reached through World Vision’s nutrition programmes in Northern Syria

Enas' story: Acute malnutrition

At just 23 months, Enas* in Syria, was on the brink of death. Her mum was desperate to find a solution, but she felt helpless as the hunger crisis began leaving its mark on her baby girl.  

"I have tried everything within my power,” shares Enas’ mum, “but she lacked variety in her diet and we could [only] feed her one meal per day." 

Enas’ family were forced from their home in 2019 due to the ongoing conflict in Syria. The family settled in a camp for displaced Syrians, but it was difficult for Enas’ father to find work. Unemployment rates in Syria have been high for many years, and with no way of earning an income many families are experiencing hunger.

READ MORE: How hunger affects children

Enas' recovery from acute malnutrition 

Enas’ mum was desperate to find help as her daughter’s health deteriorated. Thankfully, it came in the form of a mobile nutrition team.  

These teams are run by World Vision partners who visit displaced people living in camps. They help those suffering with malnutrition by providing health checks, nutritional support and medical interventions. 

When a team visited Enas’ home, it was immediately clear she was malnourished.  

"She was suffering from acute malnutrition,” shares a member of the team. “We noticed that her family's living situation was very challenging. They had many children and no proper shelter. 

"Enas couldn't move, her body was weak, she couldn't play. Her immune system was weak and couldn't protect her from minor viruses."  

Thankfully, with care from the team, Enas soon began making a recovery. Continuing under their supervision for two months, Enas began to blossom, eager to play with other children. Enas’ parents got their child back.

Baby in red hat held by her mum, being fed nutritional supplements that treat child malnutrition
Selma is gaining weight and recovering from child malnutrition

Selma's story: Severe malnutrition

At seven months Selma* almost died. Like so many others, Selma’s mum is unemployed, and the little humanitarian support she received was barely enough to keep her – or her daughter – alive. 

Selma began to lose weight and would cry in the arms of her mum, who desperately tried to sing her to sleep. But Selma’s body was too empty.  

This is the stark reality for young children living in displacement camps. 

Hope from the mobile malnutrition team

Things began to change when a team came to Selma’s tent and introduced themselves as a mobile malnutrition screening team. They were invited in and saw Selma lying in the dark. When examined Selma was diagnosed with severe malnutrition. She was then provided with the medical help she needed.  

A few months later, under close observation, Selma began to improve, gaining weight and energy. 

“I thank God for the existence of such clinics,” says her mum. “They helped my daughter through this journey and provided her support to recover from malnutrition.”  

Selma is one of over 225,000 people to receive medical help through this project, implemented by World Vision partner Action for Humanity.  

A classroom of girls participating in a World Vision education activity
A World Vision staff member stands in front of a classroom full of Syrian girls

World Vision’s work in Syria 

Since the crisis in Syria began in 2011, World Vision has been at the forefront of humanitarian efforts there, as well as in neighbouring Türkiye and Jordan. In 2023 alone, World Vision supporters made it possible for our work to directly impact over 2.8 million people, including around 1.4 million children.  

In 2023, World Vision’s nutrition programmes reached almost 535,500 individuals in Northern Syria, including more than 329,000 children. In 2024, we continue addressing children’s needs through community-based teams that are efficiently tracking malnutrition rates. 

World Vision’s existing presence in Syria also made it possible for us to immediately respond to the earthquakes in February 2023, which devastated parts of Northwest Syria and Southern Türkiye. We launched over 50 projects in the aftermath, impacting nearly 1.8 million people across sectors like protection, water and sanitation, livelihoods, health, nutrition, and education

This support continues and will do so for as long as needed.

Over the last 12 years, 9 out of 10 severely malnourished children that World Vision treated made a full recovery.

Enough is enough 

Over the last 12 years, 9 out of 10 severely malnourished children that World Vision treated made a full recovery. And this is thanks to our generous supporters – who share our belief that every child can and should have hope and a future. 

World Vision has had ENOUGH of child hunger and malnutrition. We're working with communities around the world to break the hunger cycle for good because we believe there is ENOUGH for every child to have the nourishing food they need to thrive.

Find out more about how you can donate to World Vision, becoming part of something bigger that is creating greater change and a long-lasting difference in children’s lives. 

*Names changed to protect identities 

Discover more about our work to end child hunger