Kitchen gardens and container gardening for children at risk (IRIN / Willem Van Cotthem)

Read at : IRIN

SYRIA: Severe food shortages in parched eastern region


Second part of my former posting

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said it was especially concerned about the nutritional intake of the region’s children. “It is not just about a scarcity of food: there are poor traditional feeding practices [as well],” said a spokesperson for UNICEF Syria.

According to the report, there was a drastic increase in nutrition-related diseases between 2006 and 2009. Recent data show 42 percent of children in the northeastern governorate of Al-Raqqa suffer from anaemia.

Other factors such as high food and fuel prices and the global financial crisis have aggravated the situation, said WFP’s Muzammil.

The UN has set up a Food Security Coordination Team, and aid agencies are focusing on their programmes in the region in the hope of preventing full-scale and irreversible devastation.

WFP said on 3 March it would start distributing supplementary food rations to under fives and pregnant and nursing mothers in Al-Shadadi District, Al-Hassakeh Governorate, one of the worst-affected areas with the highest rate of migration and school closures.

The report warns that more funding is needed to ensure future food security: Current interventions offer only short-term solutions when the region requires long-term development, say agencies.

“The region was improving before the drought,” according to UNICEF. “This is a real setback.”



MY COMMENT (Willem Van Cotthem)

Each time I am reading about child malnutrition I am profoundly moved.  UNICEF deserves our full admiration for its magnificent programmes and initiatives to improve the life of all the children.  Vaccination and food aid programmes are extremely important.  In that way UNICEF and WFP are complementary.  Indeed, there is clear relationship between nutrition and diseases, e.g. anaemia.  Scarcity of food, local feeding practices, high food prices, conflict situations leading to migration are just some of the factors with dramatic impact on the living conditions of the children.

Acute child malnutrition makes urgent interventions of UNICEF and WFP more than necessary.

However, according to the report

Syria Drought Response Plan 2009-2010: Mid-Term Review

more funding will be needed to ensure future food security: ‘Current interventions offer only short-term solutions when the region requires long-term development, say agencies.‘ (see above)

This is one of my major personal concerns: What kind of long-term solutions will be chosen to create future food security?

I am strongly in favour of offering the local population possibilities to switch to small-scale farming of family gardening.  Having an own kitchen garden would be for every family a big step forward, because production of fresh food will not only offer chances to provide a good part of the daily diet for all family members, but also the necessary minerals and vitamins for the children.  I am also fully convinced that container gardening has its very important role to play in every kitchen garden, in particular in the drylands.

A small step for all aid agencies, foundations and NGOs, but a big step for the developing world.


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.