A Syrian mother’s journey to support her children; Malak’s story

“I worked until the day I gave birth, and immediately after delivery. It was exhausting,”

Lina Alqassab
A child
UNICEF/ Syria 2019/Abdulaziz Aldroubi

07 April 2019

Malak, 27, is a mother of four beautiful children: Hussein 4, twins Ammar and Ahmad, 2, and baby Hiba, 8 months old. Despite living in the rich plains of northern rural Homs, three of her children have suffered malnutrition at an early age.

While pregnant with her twins, Malak and her family were living under siege in Al-Dar Al-Kabira village in northern rural Homs.

“We had limited access to food and basic commodities and my husband lost his job as a laborer in Homs city because he could no longer commute,” explains Malak.

To support her family, Malak started farming for a living.

A mother carrying her child
UNICEF/ Syria 2019/Abdulaziz Aldroubi
Malak carrying Her baby, Hiba, 8 months, currently being treated from sever acute malnutrition.

“I worked until the day I gave birth, and immediately after delivery. It was exhausting,”

Malak

Having to return to work so quickly and leave her newborns, while not having enough food to breastfeed properly, Malak had to rely on cow’s milk and starch solutions to feed her twins.

By the time the twins were one year old, Malak noticed that they were tired all the time, and small for their age. She knew they needed immediate medical attention that was not available in her besieged village. She made the dangerous decision to cross active conflict lines and smuggle her children to Hessia industrial zone in southern rural Homs. Malak started a job at a plastic factory and was soon approached by a UNICEF-supported mobile health clinic who diagnosed the twins with severe acute malnutrition.

The clinic placed the twins under close supervision and provided them with the necessary treatment and nutritional supplements until they recovered fully. Health volunteers also taught Malak about age-appropriate feeding and answered all her questions.

A mother and her children
UNICEF/ Syria 2019/Abdulaziz Aldroubi
Malak and her children from right to left: Ahmad and Ammar, Hiba 8 months, and Hussein, 4.

Last year, as violence subsided in the area, Malak and her family decided to return to their home in Al-Dar Al- Kabira - this time with her newborn Hiba.

Back at the village, Malak took Hiba to the newly established UNICEF-supported health clinic where she was also diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition.

“After everything I had been through, I was exhausted physically and emotionally and wrongfully assumed that my milk would not be enough so I relied on cow milk and starch solution instead,” explains the young mother.

Health workers started treating Hiba and guided Malak through breast milk pumping and storing for when she has to be away for work.

“It has been a tough journey for us, but Hiba is thankfully recovering. I hope she gets a better life than I’ve had,”

Malak

Thanks to funding from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), 1,073 severely malnourished children under the age of 5 years have been treated since September 2018.