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Press centre

Press release

UN agencies and NGOs call for appropriate feeding of infants and young children in the Syria emergency

AMMAN/NEW YORK, 28 January 2013 – Four UN agencies and two NGOs today strongly urged those involved in the response to the Syria crisis and people displaced in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey to avoid unnecessary illness and death in children by promoting breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding and strongly discouraging the uncontrolled distribution and use of breast-milk substitutes (e.g. infant formula), bottles and teats and other powdered or liquid milk and milk products.

UNICEF, the UN refugee agency, the World Health Organization, World Food Programme, International Medical Corps, and International Organization of Christian Charities/Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch said that statistics showed that in serious emergency situations, such as the one currently facing those affected by the Syria crisis, disease and associated death rates among under-5 children are higher than for any other age group.

The risk of dying is particularly high because of the combined impact of communicable diseases and diarrhea together with possible increases in rates of under-nutrition as people flee their homes.  The people inside Syria and those displaced may find themselves often in very difficult and unsanitary conditions thus can be at major risk of serious water-borne diseases. Breastfeeding confers critical protection from infection especially where safe water is unavailable and there is poor sanitation. Breastfeeding saves lives.

Artificial feeding with breast-milk substitutes in an emergency carries high risks of malnutrition, illness and death and is a last resort only when other safer options have first been fully explored and deemed unavailable.

Where the use of breast-milk substitutes is unavoidable, the partners only recommend ready-to-use formula that should adhere to the International Code for Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. Any distribution and use of breast-milk substitutes should be carefully monitored to ensure that only infants who have no possibility to breastfeed receive them and that they are used safely.

The nutrition partners said that, in line with internationally accepted standards, donations of infant formula, bottles and teats and other powdered or liquid milk and milk products should not be made. Past emergencies show that an excessive quantity of poorly targeted products can actually endanger infants’ lives.

UNICEF, UNHCR, WHO, WFP, IMC, GOPA/ IOCC strongly urge all who are involved in funding, planning and implementing the emergency response in Syria and neighboring countries to avoid unnecessary illness and death and to protect their infants and children by promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding and by preventing uncontrolled distribution and use of breast-milk substitutes and other milks.

All queries and any information about donations should be directed to UNICEF, the designated nutrition coordinating agency in the Middle East and North Africa emergency operation.

For more information please contact:
UNICEF Nutrition Section, New York:
Nune Mangasaryan, nmangasaryan@unicef.org, tel: +1 212 326 7159
Erin Boyd, eboyd@unicef.org, tel: + 1 212 326 7348

UNICEF office in Amman:
Mahendra Sheth, Regional Health Advisor, msheth@unicef.org, +962796663399
James King’ori, Regional Nutrition Specialist, jkingori@unicef.org, +962799499729

UNHCR office in Geneva:
Caroline Wilkinson,  Senior Nutritoin Officer, wilkinso@unhcr.org, + 41 22 739 74 86

WFP office in Rome:
Margot Van Der Velden, margot.vandervelden@wfp.org, tel. +39 06 6513 2171

WFP Regional Bureau in Cairo:
Michele Doura, Michele.doura@wfp.org, +202 2528 1730 Ext 2451, mobile- +20 101 761 6387

WHO office in Geneva:
Zita Weise Prinzo, weiseprinzoz@who.int, tel: + 41 22 791 4440
Carmen Casanovas, casanovasm@who.int, tel: +41 22 791 2968

WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office in Cairo: +202 670 2535
Ayoub Eid Al-Jawaldeh , Regional Nutrition Advisor, ALJAWALDEHA@emro.who.int
International Medical Corps
Caroline Abla, Director, Nutrition and Food Security Unit
Tel + 961 70 15 90 66

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) / Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch (GOPA):
Linda Shaker Berbari, Program Manager and Nutritionist (IOCC) / Lana Loutfi, Program Coordinator (GOPA)
lberbari@iocc.org tel: +961-1-688509
lanaloutfi.iocc@yahoo.com.uk, tel: +963-11-5414490
Additional orientation, training and other materials on infant and young child feeding in emergencies is available free at: www.ennonline.net/ife




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