The war has led to continued deterioration in health services and the destruction of health facilities, leaving young children, pregnant women, and new mothers extremely vulnerable. In 2015, UOSSM began implementing nutrition services at all UOSSM primary health care centers and mobile clinics throughout Syria, in response to the emergence of malnutrition cases.
A young girl has her arm circumference measured by UOSSM community health staff.
A UOSSM nutrition staff measures the circumference of a child’s arm. Red=severe malnutrition, yellow= acute malnutrition, green=normal.
According to a recent survey conducted by Save the Children, 65% of Syrian children “have not had an apple, an orange, or a banana for at least three months.” According to ReliefWeb International in the “Hidden Hunger in Syria” report, at least 1 in 8 children, or 500,000, currently suffer from chronic malnutrition or stunting. Source: Save the Children. Sept. 2020.
Many malnutrition cases that required intervention were diagnosed with the help of UOSSM mobile community health teams and nutrition technicians in primary health care centers and mobile clinics. Rapid response is crucial in preventing the transition from moderate to severe malnutrition, which can lead to additional complications and premature death. UOSSM has high recovery rates in patients that receive treatment, both for moderate and severe malnutrition.
A baby getting weighed in the nutrition clinic in the UOSSM Quorqonia healthcare center.
UOSSM began implementing the community health program in 2015 given the urgent need to link primary health care facilities strongly with communities to ensure appropriate responses to health needs on the ground, and facilitate early detection of health problems in society.
The role of community health teams is vital in raising health awareness and educating parents about the importance of follow-up treatment. These efforts are a key component of health teams’ mission – around 40 percent of all community health services involve infant and young child feeding skills. In addition to assisting with malnutrition cases, teams report vital information about community health status to medical centers, including evidence of disease outbreaks. Teams provide referral services for the treatment of both communicable and noncommunicable diseases. These health workers visit communities to ensure medical issues are quickly identified and addressed, helping beneficiaries detect underlying health problems so they may receive immediate care.
Each team consists of two community health workers, who carry out activities through regular field visits to beneficiaries in their homes or displacement camps. They work according to the following protocols:
Community health teams raise health awareness in local communities and reduce pressure on health care facilities by providing advice in situations not needing a referral to a health center. They also mitigate exacerbation of health conditions with early-stage detection and treatment.
In 2019, community health workers conducted surveys to detect malnutrition cases, outreach cases for chronic diseases and epidemics, and referral services for primary health care centers.154,500 community health services were provided through community health teams in 2019.
Community health teams visit families in displacement camps in northern Syria.
Young Hanan has severe malnutrition, the MUAC bracelet indicates this with the arm circumference in the red zone.
UOSSM administered a survey of children aged 6-59 months and pregnant/nursing women in all projects. This survey revealed many malnutrition cases diagnosed as “severely” and “moderately” acute, requiring therapeutic intervention and Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) program application.
5,583 cases of severe and moderate acute of malnutrition were found among children under five years of age and in pregnant/lactating women, including 630 severe acute malnutrition, and 3,580 moderate acute malnutrition.
Malnutrition interventions in UOSSM-affiliated PHC facilities achieved Cure Rates of 33% of moderate and 29% of severe acute malnutrition cases. This intervention resulted in recovery and prevented development of accompanying complications and potential patient death. A common cause in cases that do not heal is the constant movement due to displacement and change in accommodation of beneficiaries. Lack of parental response and treatment completion are other reasons.
Community health teams play a critical role in raising health awareness and educating parents about completing follow-up treatment, and the danger of neglecting visits to health facilities.