Milk4Syria Fast Facts:
~ 600 – 800 infants receive formula monthly at the center
~ 28,728 units of baby formula purchased since September 2013
~ $140,030 spent on formula since September 2013
In August 2013, the local charity council in Binnish, a town in rural Idlib province, contacted Maya Fallaha. They were desperate, requesting help in procuring infant formula to distribute to families in need that could no longer afford formula.
“As a mother, I knew this was a request that needed to be addressed immediately. I quickly gathered private donations from my dad, friends and family and sent it over,” Maya told us via e-mail.
Because of crippling sieges and ongoing fighting, baby formula was no longer readily available in rural Syria; the volunteers at the local charity council then had to risk their lives and travel to a city 100 miles away in order to purchase the baby formula. That August, they traveled the distance and transported one month’s supply back to their town.
However, this would not be the end of the project, as Fallaha knew that there needed to be way to ensure that supplies do not fall short ever again. There needed to be a way to establish a stable and consistent supply of baby formula each month.
“I had worked with Lina Sergie on a previous campaign for Syria and knew she would understand the urgency of the situation and work to help create a sustainable solution,” Fallaha recalled.
That’s how the #Milk4Syria campaign was started. Maya and the Karam team secured deals with several merchants to purchase baby formula at a discounted wholesale rate, with regularly deliveries and distributions inside Syria via local charity and relief organizations.
Since 2013, the project has grown to include an organized milk distribution center and storage facility where registered mothers can pick up infant formula for their babies free of charge. Two salaried women oversee the distribution process at the center, with a pharmacist assisting on occasion.
The #Milk4Syria distribution center in Binnish is run on a monthly voucher system; mothers from all over the province come to the center to pick up the formula monthly.
However, despite the establishment of a center, the project is not without its difficulties; due to the fluctuating levels of violence, it is hard to know how many units of formula are needed. “In a normal month, we send 1000 units of infant formula. The distribution center distributes according to the supply on hand,” Fallaha explained. “Depending on the security situation, there are times when the city receives an influx of internally displaced families which increases the demand for the formula. Therefore, there have been some months we had to double the supply we usually send in order to accommodate those families as well.”
Beyond providing much needed nutrition for the babies of Binnish, the #Milk4Syria project serves the mothers as well, removing a significant financial and psychological burden on the families. These families, already undergoing an extremely difficult time, have one less burden to worry about.
When asked if there was anything in particular that she thought was wonderful about the center, Fallaha mentioned the sets of multiples who benefit from the center.
“One set of quadruplets who were born one day after a heavy bombardment of barrel bombs on Binnish and one set of triplets who were born outside of Binnish while their family was seeking refuge are our “miracle babies” as they are a true testament that despite all that goes on, people are still living life and attempting to thrive.”