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Tropentag, October 5 - 7, 2004 in Berlin

"Rural Poverty Reduction
through Research for Development and Transformation"

Poverty, Food Systems and Nutritional Well-being of Children in North West Syria

Shibani Ghosh1, Peter L. Pellett2, Aden Aw-Hassan1

1International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Natural Resource Management Program, Syria
2University of Massachusetts, Department of Nutrition, United States of America


Linkages between child nutrition, the food system and socio-economic status in households dependent on different forms of agriculture were traced in a study conducted in North West Syria. Two areas of study were identified and three livelihood groups were selected. These were the barley/livestock/wage labour; the olive/fruit tree and irrigation groups. Five villages were surveyed and households with children under 10 years of age were recruited (n=207 households, 740 children). Informal interviews, seasonal calendars, key informant socio-economic characterisation, food frequency questionnaires and health questionnaires were conducted. Child height and weight data were collected in all groups and in a reference group from a middle class Aleppo city neighbourhood. Z-scores were calculated and independent sample t-tests and One Way ANOVA were conducted. Stunting was highest in the barley–livestock group (23%, p<0,05) and lowest in the irrigation group (12,5%), girls in the barley–livestock group had the highest rates (28,3%), followed by the boys (22%) and the girls (21,08%) in the olive/fruit tree group. Underweight prevalence was highest in the barley–livestock and olive/fruit tree groups (14,29% and 13,25%). At the dietary level, the barley/livestock group had the highest mean monthly seasonal food frequencies for cereal and cereal products and lowest frequencies for animal protein foods. Differences were observed in socio-economic status across three livelihood groups. Barley/livestock and the olive/fruit tree group reported the highest percent of poor households (60%). In contrast the irrigation group reported more than 50% of the households in a middle class category. In the barley livestock village, total land, number of sheep and sheep fattening increased with improvements in well-being category and seasonal wage labour was an important source of income for the two lower categories. The barley/livestock group had the poorest indicators of child growth, household food availability and socio-economic status. Marginal environments and poor access to resources are possible causative factors. The paper makes recommendations for addressing the nutritional deficiencies of these dryland marginal areas.

Keywords: Agriculture, food frequency, nutrition, poverty, socio-economic status, stunting, Syria, underweight

Contact Address: Shibani Ghosh, International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Natural Resource Management Program, P.O. Box 5466, Aleppo, Syria, e-mail: s.ghosh@cgiar.org

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