Supporting infant health in Iraq
For mothers whose lives have been overturned by conflict in Iraq and Syria, the challenges of raising an infant are compounded by the stress of displacement. UNICEF works to ensure that even in these difficult circumstances, children born in refugee and IDP camps in Iraq get the best possible start to life.
At a UNICEF-supported baby hut in Domiz Camp for Syrian refugees in northern Iraq, mothers receive health and nutrition guidance from clinic staff. An essential step in promoting infant health is educating mothers about the importance of breastfeeding. Exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of a baby’s life is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways of ensuring that all children thrive.
Domiz is the largest Syrian refugee camp in Iraq, home to 40,840 people. The baby hut in the camp is always busy - up to 200 women visit each week. With generous funding from Germany’s KfW Development Bank and from the Governments of Japan and Italy, UNICEF supports baby huts like this one in six camps for Syrian refugees and 13 camps for internally displaced Iraqis.
“It’s good to have our own place to breastfeed,” said Zoza (above), a Syrian refugee from Al-Hasakah.
Across the hall is another room dedicated to infant health — a space for growth monitoring and surveillance. Here clinic staff track the height and weight of newborns and young children in order to watch for signs of stunting or malnutrition, and provide treatment when necessary.
UNICEF supports growth monitoring and nutritional screening for children under five, and provides nutritional supplementation and therapeutic feeding for those in need.
In 2015, UNICEF supported the healthy growth and treatment of over 123,000 children in Iraq. Above, a clinic staff member gently weighs and measures an infant in the growth monitoring room.
Next is a room for immunization. In Iraq UNICEF works with the Ministry of Health and governorate-level Directorates to provide routine immunization against polio and measles. In the last two years, more than 3.9 million children have been vaccinated against measles, and 5.8 million against polio.
Back in the breastfeeding area, a new group of mothers sit together with their children, including 10-month-old twins Ali and Mohamed (centre) and their mother Noor.
“It’s nice that they care about us, and good to see the other mothers,” said Noor.
Lindsay Mackenzie is a Consultant with UNICEF Iraq.
Direct donations to UNICEF Iraq: https://support.unicef.org/campaign/donate-now/donate