March is the National Nutrition month and I decided to dedicate it this Year to an issue of paramount importance that is not related to the consequences of being overweight, obese or something in between… Nor to the foods we must avoid to shed a few pounds or the foods we must focus on to live happier…
It is related to a condition that touches the lives of millions of people around the world and in Lebanon, specifically amongst Syrian refugees…And, it is called Malnutrition!
The assessment conducted by the United Nations children’s fund UNICEF and other agencies found that:
~10,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon <5 years old are suffering from acute malnutrition
~1,800 Syrian refugees in Lebanon <5 years old are at risk of dying and require immediate treatment to survive
~2000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon <5 years old are found in makeshift shelters in the Bekaa valley with unbearable living conditions: food is not enough and water is not safe while streams of putrid waste surround their camps… As a result of a lack of immunization, improper feeding practices you can’t get pretty good at judging the age of children based on their size as a 2 years old looks like a 4 years old; that’s what stunting is and that’s where action needs to take place immediately!
Today, the UNICEF treated 400 cases so far and the remaining 5.5 Million Syrian children are still in need of Humanitarian assistance!
Other forms of malnutrition are less visible but not less deadly:
-Vitamin A deficiency
PEM (Protein Energy Malnutrition) takes two forms: Marasmus and Kwashiorkor and is prevalent amongst Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Marasmus: occurs to children aged between 6 and 18 months who are fed low quality proteins and who look skeletally thin.
An Inadequate nutrition implies:
-the weakening of the muscles and heart muscles
-An impaired learning with the stunting of the brain development
-A slowed down metabolism with subnormal body temperature: skin loses its elasticity and moisture and tends to crack.When sores develop they fail to heal
-Digestive enzymes become in short supply leading to the deterioration of the digestive tract lining and the failure to absorb nutrients
-Blood proteins (hemoglobin) stop being produced and the child becomes anemic
-Antibodies are degraded leading to an increase in infections.Infections and malnutrition are responsible for 2/3 of the deaths of young children in the world.
-Dysentery which is the infection of the digestive tract causes diarrhea that depletes the body’s potassium and upset the electrolyte balances that in addition to anemia, fever and infections lead to heart failure and death.
Marasmus progresses to the point of no return! And, years after PEM is corrected, a child may experience deficit in thinking and school achievement.As an adult, he will have a low income and women would give birth to low birth weight babies with abnormalities.
Kwashiorkor symptoms resemble Marasmus but without severe wasting of body fat.As the proteins and hormones that maintain the fluid balance diminish, the fluid leaks out of the blood and accumulates in the belly and legs causing edema and a fatty liver.
Instead of making this world a better place to live in, this emerging threat amongst Syrian refugees in Lebanon will affect the nation’s progress negatively in an era where science and technology are in a continuous effort to develop more advanced nations… Uncontrollable factors play against the ideal scheme we always dream about and the only way to prevent more disastrous outcomes of the Syrian conflict that’s been going for the past three years, is to lend a hand…
For Your donations check Refugeaid’s website: http://www.refugeaid.com/Donate
This Lenten season, saw the Syrian Refugee crisis enter it’s fourth year.Besides praying, omitting foods from our diet plans and avoiding drinking, helping the people of Syria can be part of the sacrifices done during this period…
After all, while giving, I put myself in a position of wealth. The gift is proof that I have more than enough. At the same time it gives me a sense of my worth as a person. That act of giving created a sense of spaciousness in the mind… the world we live in is created by our actions, and the act of giving creates a spacious world…A world where generosity is an operating principle…A world where people have more than enough, enough to share… And it creates a good feeling in the mind.
Today, when someone asks me what is the meaning of life, I refer to the Dalai Lama and state that it is, to be happy and useful. What matters the most, is to be able to see and try to make a difference in this world, even if you can’t feed a hundred people, you could just start by feeding one!
Dietitian Nicole Maftoum