Starvation in Syria

Megan Franz

Article Summary

This article was written for NPR by correspondent Susan Brink on January 20, 2016. Brink sets the scene by describing the current state of Syria, specifically a town called Madaya. The UN reports that people in Madaya are starving after government blockades and rebel siege have prevented supplies and food from reaching the town. Brink describes a startling 1-in-9 statistic; 795 million people worldwide suffer from undernutrition, which Brink explains can lead to starvation.

The majority of the article is spent describing the progression from undernutrition and malnutrition to starvation to death. Brink describes how inadequate intake of micronutrients can lead to disease processes such as anemia or beriberi. Prolonged malnutrition can lead to weight loss, which in turn leads the body to use its own stores as nutrition. Brink explains chronic malnutrition can lead to kidney failure, muscle weakness, and decreased body temperature.

The article provides great detail on how bodies reacts when deprived of food. Brink even focuses on particular populations. She explains that women may have a theoretical advantage over men due to their higher body fat percentages. Children, Brink says, are at the highest risk due to their increased metabolic demand and low body fat.

Finally, Brink describes the visible effects of starvation. She describes irritable, nervous individuals who may eventually suffer from permanent brain damage.

Treatment, Brink says, can range from therapeutic foods to increase nutritional intake to hospitalization to treat underlying conditions.

Though malnutrition and starvation follow somewhat consistent tracks of gradual progression with some anticipated complications and side effects, Brink is sure to explain that much of what occurs is specific to individuals. Nutritionists point out that there are no specific time frames, no sure courses.

(NPR, What Happens to the Body and Mind When Starvation Sets In?)

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Article Critique

I chose this particular article because I felt that reporter Susan Brink successfully related a world health issue with evidence-based scientific health information. The information presented in “What Happens to the Body and Mind When Starvation Sets In?” directly related to information covered in class.

I found this article online through NPR. NPR is a multimedia news organization, providing both written and radio pieces. NPR has won hundreds of journalistic awards since its inauguration in 1971.

Reporter Susan Brink is an NPR correspondent and former health reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Through her work at NPR, Brink has authored such pieces as “What Makes Water Unsafe?”, “A Global Alarm About Diabetes – And Don’t Blame It All On Fast Food”, and “Global Health Forecast for 2016: Which Diseases Will Rise … Or Fall?”.

Brink pulled information from a variety of reputable sources. Brink referred to the United Nations News Service and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization to provide information on Syrian and worldwide malnutrition statistics. Brink pulls from studies such as hunger strikes and “The Biology of Human Starvation” to provide timelines for the body’s reaction to malnutrition.

Throughout the article, Brink referred to two key sources. Maureen Gallagher is the senior nutrition adviser from Action Against Hunger. Dr. Nancy Zucker is the director of the Duke Center for Eating Disorders at Duke University. Gallagher provided information on how bodies can pull from their own nutrient reserves and describes the behavioral consequences of starvation in children. Zucker speculates that children may suffer from more immediately apparent effects of malnutrition, describes the psychological effects of starvation such as suspicion and rationing, and describes the ultimate neurological deficits and damage from chronic malnutrition.

All in all, I found this article to be both informative and accurate. The information presented by Brink was backed up by evidence and scholarly sources. I found that the information in this article was incredibly similar to information presented in class. I believe that Brink did an exceptional job reporting and relaying information in this article.

(NPR, What Happens to the Body and Mind When Starvation Sets In?)

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Works Cited

NPR. What Happens to the Body and Mind When Starvation Sets In? Retrieved from on April 8, 2016.