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Press Centre (9/2014)

Investigating Syrian refugee nutrition in Turkey

Health teams collect data such as height, weight and arm length of Syrian children in Turkey. @UNICEF/Turkey-2014-Yurtsever
ADANA, Turkey, 19 September 2014 – The Adana suburb streets are wide and crowded. Soon the roads become narrower and the crowds become bigger—mostly women and children. On a side street of Yeşilbağlar neighborhood of Yüreğir, a 10-year-old girl named İntizar is busy helping her mother.

Their house is on the ground floor of a red two storey house. Furniture is sparse, replaced by a bunch of cushions, a fan and a table. A package of Syrian bread lies on a tablecloth on the floor.

“If I were able to continue to go to school, I would become a doctor one day”, she says as she leads the way to the kitchen with her 5-year-old sister Melek. Lentils jars are stacked on the shelves. The pot on the little gas cylinder on the counter is empty.

AFAD health workers are currently going door-to-door to research the nutrition patterns of Syrians living in Turkey.
It is aimed that 1,500 houses, 1,200 of which are outside the camps and 300 of which are inside the camps, will be reached with the research to be carried out in Adana, Mersin, Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Mardin, İstanbul and Konya between 1 and 10 September 2014.

İntizar went to school in Syria until the 3rd grade, but hasn’t seen the inside of a classroom for two years now. “I liked all my lessons — my teachers wanted me to teach the 5th graders,” she jokes as she reminisces. She especially liked sports classes, and playing basketball was her favorite.

Ramazan Özdemir is the AFAD health officer in charge of the team in Adana. They will conduct surveys in a total of 96 houses—71 outside the camp. He said, “We visit 9 – 10 houses everyday and collect data such as height, weight and arm length, before we send the data away for analysis.”

İntizar is one of nine children—four girls and five boys. The family came to Turkey from al-Hasakah governorate of Syria almost a year ago. Her father, Ismail, cannot work, but some of her brothers do, although none have regular hours. The family struggles to make ends meet and make eating nutritious meals a big problem.
“Sometimes we eat three times a day, sometimes twice and sometimes only once. We buy cheap food. Rice, cracked wheat, vegetables… Our basic food is the Syrian bread we buy from the bakery,” said Ismail.

11-month-old baby Bisen is breastfeeding, although sometimes she’s fed bread dipped into tea or milk.

It’s tough for the family to get regular food aid, and they relied heavily on charitable people in Ramadan, İsmail says. “We are happy in Turkey but life is difficult here.”

Once the survey is complete and the children happily take the candies the health workers offer them, but bare kitchen offers to answer to what the 11-strong family will eat for dinner that evening.

Story and photos by Ayberk Yurtsever
UNICEF Turkey Country Office, Yukarı Dikmen Mah. Alexsander Dubçek Cd. 7/106, 06450 Çankaya/Ankara. Telephone: +90 312 454 1000 Fax: +90 312 496 1461 E-mail: ankara@unicef.org