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UNICEF a life-saver for Syrian children

A Syrian refugee child at a camp in Iraq. Over 5 million children have been impacted by the war in Syria.

The civil war in Syria is now in its 4th year, and everyday unfolds a struggle to survive for millions trapped in the country. War causes food shortages and malnutrition.

UNICEF is bringing in life-saving food to Syrian children. Here are just a few examples from the latest UNICEF report. High-energy biscuits and Plumpy'Doz were recently delivered in Arastan, Homs. This will be enough food to treat 3,000 malnourished children under five years of age. Both of these foods require no preparation or refrigeration making them easier to distribute in a war zone.

In Aleppo, therapeutic milk is being provided by UNICEF. This milk is usually given at medical clinics to treat severe malnutrition. In Qamishli, Plumpy'Nut and high-energy biscuits were distributed to help feed 90 children.

The Plumpy'Nut, which is a fortified peanut paste, is used to treat the most severe cases of child malnutrition. Plumpy'Doz is part of that same family of foods and helps prevent malnutrition from taking hold. In Iraq, Jordan and other countries hosting Syrian refugees, UNICEF is also providing nutritious food.

The very fact that any of these foods are being deployed in a country means that children's lives are at risk. UNICEF and its partners on the ground are in a race against time to prevent malnutrition from destroying a child's life. Malnutrition can cause lasting physical or mental damage, or death.

UNICEF is helping put together a nutrition study to see exactly the extent of malnutrition in Syria. Those results are expected any day now. It's difficult to know the extent because many parts of the country are hard to reach because of the fighting. What we do know is that children have perished from malnutrition. There are an estimated 5 million children impacted by the war in Syria. They need food, medicine and clean water.

UNICEF is also low on funding for the Syria mission. They have set up a relief fund at UNICEF USA. In addition, funding levels for the International Disaster Assistance Program (IDA) are being debated in Congress.

The IDA fund helps UNICEF and other humanitarian agencies like the World Food Programme respond to disasters. It's critical that Congress support this funding considering the massive ongoing emergency in the Middle East and other parts of the globe.

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