Layla is 23 and has worked as a nutritionist with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent at the Salamiyah malnutrition clinic for the past year.
“There are many causes of malnutrition. Because of the crisis, there is not enough food, especially for displaced people. Some families are large and struggle to cope – we had one mother with eight children. Some parents lack awareness on appropriate feeding. And if a pregnant woman is malnourished, it is likely her baby will be malnourished too.
“People who are struggling to get enough food might not eat all the things they need, like meat or vegetables. For them, just managing to feed their family is an achievement, you don’t think about nutrition. There are also some bad practices to address, like mothers feeding their babies the water from cooking rice, thinking this will contain nutrients. Some mothers worry their milk is not enough and move the child on to tea and bread, but we encourage them to feed using their milk, which is better.
“Some women struggle to lactate. When they come to the clinic we advise them, try to encourage them to keep lactating to bring on more milk.
“I am an emotional person, but I use my emotions in a positive way to help me understand people. When I started working here I saw my first SAM (acute) case and felt very sad. But when he was cured I was so happy. He was the first case I cured. I still carry a photo of him on my phone.”
The SARC malnutrition clinic in Salamiyah has both a base in the town and a mobile team of volunteers who go out to surrounding villages. The malnutrition clinic is one of six such SARC facilities, supported by the Canadian and Japanese Red Cross Societies, in response to the situation faced by displaced people and those living in hard-to-reach areas.