Scaling up Infant and Young Child Feeding in Northwest Syria

UNICEF is scaling up Infant and Young Child Feeding in its Emergency Programme northwest Syria.

Bakhodir Rahimov, nutrition specialist and Tarig Mekkawi, nutrition manager, UNICEF in Gaziantep.
Group photo

15 May 2019

UNICEF is scaling up Infant and Young Child Feeding in its Emergency Programme northwest Syria.


In April 2019, UNICEF in partnership with Save the Children hosted a 3-day ”Infant and Young Child Feeding” training for coordinators and focal points. 21 participants including female representatives of partner non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were trained on ”Infant and Young Child Feeding” specifically, and nutrition programme mentoring. UNICEF’s nutrition programme scheduled to build nutrition capacity of NGO partners further during 2019.


According to recent nutrition programme field data, severe acute malnutrition among mothers and children is quite low in northwest Syria. However, stunting among children under five years of age has exhibited an increasing trend based on the recent survey of nutrition status in the northwest of Syria.


There are multiple reasons causing child stunting and one of those is linked to poor infants and young children feeding practices in communities. Exclusive breastfeeding rates are still low due to widely spread beliefs that breastmilk is insufficient for children below six months of age. Recommended complementary child feeding practices for children below 24 months of age have not been widely disseminated in northwest Syria yet.


“Mothers of up to six months old children do not believe that breastmilk can provide all nutritional elements including enough water even during summer. I think that we, service providers, have to find a way to reassure mothers about the importance of breastmilk. The “infant and young child feeding” training helped me improve my counselling skills. For now, I feel confident enough to support other colleagues in the dissemination of recommended child feeding practices,” said Ms Arij Shaaban, a nutritionist from a local NGO partner.


Using the recently allocated emergency fund specifically for the infant and young child feeding” scale up, plans are in place to build one to one counselling capacity of service providers and implement a targeted communication strategy for informing mothers about recommended child feeding practices, and where they can get additional support.

“Only by ensuring the presence of a facility-based mother and child nutrition services and active community outreach activities through primary/community healthcare system it would be possible to provide comprehensive, continuous support for mothers and other family caregivers to practice recommended child feeding”,

Dr Tarig Mekkawi, Nutrition Manager and Cluster coordinator at UNICEF.

A pool of 20 infant and young child feeding focal points will start rolling planned interventions from May 2019. The cascade training will be initiated for service providers including community outreach teams, nurses and midwives, nutritionists and paediatricians as well as for lead mothers of the Mothers’ Support Groups.


“We, focal points, understand the importance of breastfeeding and recommended complementary child feeding. Now it is time to ensure that communities, including all family members, not only know but also practice infant and young child feeding. We are responsible for creating a supportive environment in hospitals and communities,” said Dr Katham Saaty, Nutrition Cluster Co-coordinator at partner NGO in Gaziantep.