We’re building a new UNICEF.org.
As we swap out old for new, pages will be in transition. Thanks for your patience – please keep coming back to see the improvements.

At a glance: Lebanon

Malnutrition a silent threat emerging among Syrian refugee children in Lebanon

Tourkia’s son Abed is not alone. Malnutrition is becoming a new, silent threat in Lebanon. Almost 2,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon suffer from severe acute malnutrition and need immediate treatment to survive. Learn more.  Download this video


By Soha Bsat Boustani

A Syrian mother flees the conflict in her home country only to find her children facing a new threat – malnutrition.

GHAZIYEH, Lebanon, 25 February 2014 – Fatmeh, Mona, Siham, Tourkia, Leila and the others sit in a collective shelter in Ghaziyeh, south Lebanon. The women are talking about their lives in the Syrian Arabic Republic, before the conflict broke out. They recall beautiful stone houses surrounded by orange trees, a room for each child, university for their older children, schools for the younger ones, the food.

They relate how unbearable things had become, when they were forced to flee to Lebanon.

In Lebanon, each woman struggles to survive, with nothing but her dignity.


Tourkia is pregnant. She has two other children. She takes me to her small room. Ten people live there. The room has no sanitation facilities, no water, no kitchen. There are one bathroom and one kitchen for the entire collective shelter, and they are shared by the seventy families who live there.

Ten people live in the room in which Tourkia struggles to get proper nourishment to Abed. One bathroom and one kitchen are shared among 70 families in the collective shelter.

The rents have skyrocketed because of the demand for housing across Lebanon. 

Tourkia shows me her son Abed. Abed is 15 months old, but his height and weight are those of 5-month-old. Abed won’t stop crying. His eyes are empty. His skin is dry and flaky.

Tourkia tells me, “We took him to the doctor, who told us that that he urgently needs to be taken to hospital.

“He has a high fever, is continuously vomiting and has become so weak,” she adds. “We are watching him die, but we didn’t have money to take him to the hospital.”

With the help of Fatmeh, a community mobilizer from the NGO Terre des Hommes, we are able to contact the local hospital to discuss Abed. We give the family the cost of transportation.

Abed is treated with therapeutic food, and he recovers. We catch up with Fatmeh later. She tells us he has become an energetic child, running and playing. 


Abed is not alone. UNICEF recently led an inter-agency nutrition assessment on Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Malnutrition is becoming a threat, among this population.

Preliminary results show that almost 2,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, and need immediate treatment to survive. As malnutrition is linked to such factors as poor hygiene, unsafe drinking water, the cold season, lack of immunization, diseases and improper infant and young child feeding practices, the situation could deteriorate even further.

“The most vulnerable Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, especially children under 5 living in dire conditions, are at risk of malnutrition,” says UNICEF Representative in Lebanon Annamaria Laurini. “UNICEF is working with the Government and partners to implement both immediate and longer-term measures to address the issues.”

Visit UNICEF Lebanon on Facebook
Follow UNICEF Lebanon on Twitter



UNICEF Photography: Syrian crisis

New enhanced search