U.N. feeds record 3.3 million Syrians but malnutrition rising

Fri Nov 1, 2013 11:53am EDT
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By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations delivered food to a record 3.3 million people in Syria in October, up from 2.7 million the previous month, but said on Friday civilians were going hungry in besieged areas that remain inaccessible.

Embattled parts of Damascus and its rural areas, where fighting has intensified, have not been reached for many months and the nutritional state of those trapped is believed to have deteriorated significantly, the World Food Programme (WFP) said.

"WFP is concerned about the fate of many Syrians trapped in conflict areas and still in need of urgent food assistance. We are monitoring worrying reports emerging of malnutrition among children in besieged areas," WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told a news briefing in Geneva.

More children are being admitted to hospitals in Damascus and other parts of the country for treatment of malnutrition,

a condition that leaves them weakened and more susceptible to other diseases, the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) said.

"We know that there is an upward trend in the number of children being admitted with moderate and severe acute malnutrition. Most of these cases are being reported from two referral hospitals in Damascus - the Children's Hospital and the Damascus Hospital," UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado said.

The trend of rising child malnutrition was confirmed by its partner aid agencies in Hama, Homs, Aleppo, Rural Damascus, Quneitra, Deir al-Zor, rural Deraa and Idlib, she said.

"There is a lack of skilled professionals to deal with severe acute malnutrition, which is a condition that requires medical treatment," Mercado said. "Obviously these children at much more risk of sickness and death than children who are not malnourished."   Continued...