UNICEF initiative tackles rising malnutrition in Lebanon
Today in Lebanon, infants, adolescents and women are at particular risk of malnutrition. UNICEF is working with partners to ensure every child gets the proper nutrition to enable them to survive and thrive
The ever-worsening crisis in Lebanon impacts society’s most vulnerable disproportionately – and none more so than its children. Today, infants, adolescents and women are at particular risk of malnutrition. UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and partners to ensure every child gets the proper nutrition to enable them to survive and thrive.
Nutrition programming and nutrition surveillance have been scaled up to prevent, detect, and manage malnutrition. UNICEF has mobilized partners with the implementation of an outreach programme focused on detecting early signs of malnourishment amongst those living within vulnerable communities.
As part of a national response, Lebanon’s Ministry of Public Health has established malnutrition treatment case management at twenty-five treatment centres within its primary health care centre network across the country. One such venue is the Al Nahda Malnutrition Treatment Centre in Miniyeh, northern Lebanon.
Here nurses monitor a steady flow of concerned parents and caregivers – many referred following observations made by UNICEF partners during community outreach – and each eager for their children to be examined.
In 2021, UNICEF reached 282,282 children under 5 with needed nutrition services, treatment and supplies.In collaboration with local and international NGO partners, UNICEF backs enhanced nutritional outreach activities implemented by community health workers. Operating in support of health workers at the country’s primary health care centres, an active outreach programme enables focused follow-up of vulnerable families and malnourished under-5s.
Three-year-old Sendus lives with her parents on the edge of Ghazze, in Lebanon’s Bekaa region. She was recently diagnosed as being at risk of malnutrition.
The last time the family received a visit, health workers from UNICEF implementing partner ACF (Action Against Hunger) provided a supply of BP-5 biscuits to Sendus’s parents. One month later, and the signs reveal a significant improvement in the three-year-old’s condition. She will continue to receive regular monitoring visits.
The young girl’s parents note how much easier it was to feed themselves and their children one year ago. Through the UNICEF-supported programme, the children are being provided with micronutrient sprinkles to supplement their diet.
The youngest member of the family, eight-month-old Aisha, is also being closely monitored. Her weight remains above the threshold for acute malnutrition, but she remains a focus of concern.
The twenty-five primary health care treatment centres deliver a consistent message on infant and young child feeding (IYCF) – providing information for parents and caregivers, essential nutrition treatment supplies, and making referrals to state hospitals when required.
Malnutrition exists as a threat due to Lebanon’s compound crises. Understanding this, UNICEF has developed a holistic approach to managing the challenges.
Poverty is a key, although not exclusive, cause of the increase in cases of malnutrition. To mitigate this, social assistance through UNICEF’s Haddi Child grant programme is provided on a monthly basis to 3,370 children under the age of 5 years from 1,602 households receiving malnutrition services, among other 125,000 children receiving UNICEF high priority services. This assistance was coupled with counselling on proper IYCF practices and provided over a six-month period.
In a further key intervention, UNICEF, with implementing partners, supports the hosting of a series of IYCF workshops. In addition to providing nutrition information from birth, caregivers are given further advice on adequate diet diversity for children aged from 6 months up to 2 years old.
“This session helped me understand how to introduce food in a new, fun way and how to easily prepare at home a balanced, rich meal rather than buying expensive jars from pharmacies,” explains Jihan, a mother of two young boys, speaking at a UNICEF-supported (IYCF) awareness session in Deir Aamar, north Lebanon.
Mother of three, Wissam, highlights how the course highlighted that good nutrition is what babies need the most. “We got valuable insights in to how to care for our children from their early days and until they’re five years old,” she said. “We learned how to make quick, healthy meals that will save us money during this crisis. Above all though, we discovered how to make sure our children are receiving a good nutrition, so they will have the chance to grow and have a happy, healthy life”.