Infant and Young Child Feeding Program in Za’atari Refugee Camp


Save the Children’s Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) Program has been running in Za’atari Refugee Camp, home to over 130,000 Syrian refugees in north Jordan, since December 2012. The program provides assistance to children under the age of five, in addition to pregnant and lactating women. 

Breastfeeding in an emergency is the safest way to protect children from an increased risk of infection and from becoming malnourished. With the right support and assistance, mothers can continue to breastfeed fully, even when malnourished, in order to give their children the best chance of survival.  In an emergency setting, access to hygienic facilities to sterilize bottles and prepare infant formula, appropriate and timely health services, safe storage of water and privacy to breastfeed can be limited, impacting on the nutritional status of infants if an intervention is not provided.

The IYCF Program has set up 3 caravans in the camp, which provide a safe and private place for mothers to breastfeed their children. Women who come to the caravan are provided with biscuits and water, and both mothers and fathers are given awareness-raising sessions on breastfeeding by Save the Children’s specialists. 

SCJordan_HalimaZada  is a 25-year-old mother to four children. She arrived at Za’atari Camp three months ago, where she lives in a small caravan with her four children. When she arrived at Za’atari, her youngest daughter, Alaa, was five months old. Zada breastfed her for the first month and a half of her life, but she then switched to infant formula because she felt too stressed out by the dangerous situation in her home town in Syria. 

“When Save the Children Jordan’s counsellor first visited my family, my baby was 5 months old, and I was very frustrated and easily irritated. The counsellor explained the benefits of breast milk and the dangers of infant formula preparation, particularly in the environment at the camp. We also talked about the possibility of relactation, and I agreed to try it by putting Alaa on my breast whenever possible, especially at night. I was taught the correct positioning and attachment pattern, I started drinking more fluids and agreed to start using the cup instead of the bottle, due to inaccessibility to clean water and hygiene conditions, until my milk flow returned.

One week later, the counsellor and I started decreasing the amount of infant formula I was giving to Alaa, whilst monitoring her weight and urination. Within a month my baby was fully satisfied from breast milk. I feel so much better now that I am breast feeding, and I know that this is a bit accomplishment for me and the best thing I can offer my child under the circumstances.”

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