April 25, 2018, 9:57 pm IST
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Northern Syria: access to primary health care gives hope to malnourished child

Northern Syria: access to primary health care gives hope to malnourished child

 Apr 15, 2018

Sham was 6 months old when her worried mother, Ghadir, brought her to a health facility in the town of Al-Zafaranah, about 30 kilometres from her village in the embattled countryside north of Homs, Syria.

For some time, Ghadir had been having trouble breastfeeding Sham. This was in part due to the extreme stress of living in a shelled home that barely stands, in an area long-consumed by violence.

Her family struggles to get by as food prices soar and her husband’s job prospects and wages dwindle. But more so, Sham was increasingly unable to nurse because of a rapidly growing tumour on her lips. The little girl had become thin and weak, a WHO European region report on Wednesday said.

“When Sham was referred to our primary health-care centre in Al-Zafaranah in early November, we immediately ran tests and found she was suffering from severe acute malnutrition,” recalls her physician,

Dr Kamar Osta. “We quickly developed a treatment plan.”

Staff at the centre provided Ghadir with guidance on alternative feeding approaches and started a regimented nutrition programme that included the introduction of therapeutic foods, such as fortified, high-calorie pistachio paste, as well as weekly monitoring visits.

Two months later, in early January, Sham was at a healthy weight and was no longer suffering from malnutrition.

Doctors also diagnosed the tumour on her lips as benign – a growth that would eventually need to be removed surgically.

“This little girl was one of the fortunate ones,” says Dr Abdullrazak Kintar, who coordinates primary health-care programmes for the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), the WHO partner that runs the Al-Zafaranah facility.

“Malnutrition rates are high in besieged areas, and far too many children cannot get screened or treated because they can’t safely access medical care or it’s no longer available.” (UNI)

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