The UN's humanitarian chief has reported that 34 per cent of all children in north-west Syria suffer from stunted development due to severe malnourishment. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock revealed the statistics, which shed light on the extent of food and aid shortages in the area, during a UN Security Council briefing yesterday.
According to Lowcock, up to 37 per cent of mothers in the areas of displacement are malnourished, causing the stunted development of children to increase by five per cent in the region this year. This means that just over one-third of children under the age of five are affected.
A primary reason for the widespread malnourishment is the fact that over 80 per cent of displaced families do not have sufficient income to cover their basic needs. This is more so in families wherein the primary breadwinners are the women, as they earn on average 30 per cent less than other displaced families.
Syria: Displaced children run after rubbish truck scavenging for food
Water is also a significant problem for the internally displaced persons in Idlib, Lowcock warned. "Electricity from Turkish providers last month increased pumping at local wells, but supply is still far short of needs. Water supply from the Ein El-Bayda pumping station to Al-Bab could meet these needs, and should immediately resume."
Many of the displaced families were forced to flee to the north-western province of Idlib, largely held by the opposition forces, because the Syrian regime and Russia bombarded them and pushed them out during the offensive on the province that was halted by a ceasefire deal in March.
Living in the displacement camps scattered throughout Idlib and surrounding areas, they remain in a dire situation with poor sanitation compounding their difficulties. They do not have the money to buy food, the price of which has risen sharply in recent months.
This has been worsened by the fact that there is limited aid getting into the province because states including Russia and China voted to close most of the humanitarian border crossings from Turkey into Syria this year. Only one of the four border crossings remains open, threatening further the livelihood of the displaced civilians who face a winter with food and fuel shortages.
READ: Syria's Idlib refugee camps 'unliveable'