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Syria Crisis: Small Food Packages Save Children

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Ten-year-old Omar from Derayya is still recovering from heart surgery that he got in the Damascus Children’s Hospital 10 months ago. The volunteers at the clinic say that Omar is progressing steadily and gaining weight with the help of Plumpy’doz. (WFP/Dina Elkassaby)

Ten-year-old Omar from Derayya is still recovering from heart surgery that he got in the Damascus Children’s Hospital 10 months ago. The volunteers at the clinic say that Omar is progressing steadily and gaining weight with the help of Plumpy’doz. (WFP/Dina Elkassaby)

It’s a small package of food. But for a child it’s a life-saver. The food is called Plumpy’doz. There is another version called Nutributter. Both of these are being distributed in war-torn Syria.

The goal is to prevent acute malnutrition and stunting in children, especially those under five years old.

The civil war, now in its 4th year, has leveled communities. Food production, water and health care systems have been destroyed. When there is war, malnutrition follows close behind.

Save the Children says it has heard “accounts of children forced to subsist off nothing more than lentils or bread for days on end, with one family trapped in their basement by explosions eating just half a piece of bread each over the course of four days.”

They also collected the following testimonies:

“The price of food doubled in my village and we couldn’t afford to eat at all. Milk, bread, everything – doubled. The children became very hungry all the time. And with no nutrients, they also became sick.” – Jinan, mother of Siba, 3

“Because of a lack of food, my children didn’t grow as they should. They started losing weight, and it was all we could do to keep them alive.” – Maryam, mother of two

These are perfect examples of why Plumpy’Doz, Nutributter and other vitamin-enriched foods are so crucial for the war relief. The children are extremely vulnerable to malnutrition. If it takes hold they are put at risk of lasting physical and mental damage, and even death.

Plumpy’Doz and Nutributter are peanut-based products enriched with vitamins and minerals. In fact, Plumpy’Doz was recently given to a 10-year old child recovering from heart surgery. Nutrition is especially crucial to his recovery.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is trying to reach 240,000 children in 14 governorates in Syria with both Plumpy’Doz and Nutributter. The Plumpy’Doz is being used for the central and southern governorates and Nutributter in the northeastern governorates and also Aleppo. There is also Plumpy’Doz being provided to Syrian refugee children in Iraq.

Within Syria, WFP needs access to the starving children as military forces routinely block roads.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says, “Humanitarian assistance is not something to be negotiated; it is something to be allowed by virtue of international law.”

What also can tragically prevent children from getting this food is something we can largely control: funding. WFP recently had to cut rations for Syrians because they had not received enough donations.

The U.S. Food for Peace program is funding the Nutributter being provided by WFP in Syria. The Nutributter was produced by Edesia, a Rhode Island-based nonprofit which produces the full range of Plumpy foods.

More donations are needed to keep the pipeline of aid moving. Until the war ends, humanitarian needs will continue to grow. Malnutrition will continue to be a threat. Plumpy’Doz, Nutributter and other foods must reach populations in need.

WFP has set up a Syria donation page.

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.