Action Against Hunger’s emergency nutrition program in Al Khukha, Yemen. Photo: Florian Seriex for Action Against Hunger-Yemen
Action Against Hunger warns that four times more children are at risk of dying of hunger in the Yemen governorate of Hodeidah than when the conflict began. At least 462,000* children are now estimated to be suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Yemen, where a 20-month conflict between the Houthis and a Saudi-led coalition has had a devastating impact on families across the country.
Action Against Hunger staff in Yemen are reporting an extremely alarming deterioration of nutrition status, particularly in Hodeidah governorate, with significantly higher numbers of children attending their clinics in need of urgent inpatient care because of malnutrition and other complications.
“Nearly 40 percent of the children we see in our mobile clinics need treatment,” says Action Against Hunger Country Director in Yemen, Erin Hutchinson. “They are not only suffering from severe acute malnutrition, but also from other complications, such as malaria, pneumonia, and are very ill. Treating malnutrition must be an absolute top priority for the humanitarian community, or many children will die.”
At a clinic in Al Khukha, Hodeidah, 10-month-old Hafida weighs just 10 and a half pounds, as she waits in the arms of her mother for the doctor to examine her.
“At this age, she should weigh nearly 15 and a half pounds,” says nurse Ali Ibrahim Abdullah, who explains that in addition to being malnourished, Hafida also has an ear and lung infection. “It’s not uncommon,” he says. “I see more and more children coming to clinic with additional complications.”
Of the 30 consultations conducted that day, 12 young children required immediate inpatient treatment, an admission rate far higher than in 2014. The latest UN estimates suggest one fifth of Yemen’s population – 4.5 million people – need nutritional assistance.
Following the consultation, the clinic refers the most urgent cases of severe acute malnutrition to the nearest stabilization center, one of which is run by Action Against Hunger. At the stabilization center, both the mother and child are taken care of until the child is well enough to be discharged from inpatient care. From there, the child continues treatment on an outpatient basis, with screenings and followup until the child has completely recovered.
At a stabilization center in Hayis, supported by Action Against Hunger and the European Commission**, 12 of the 14 beds are occupied. Bra and her mother Saloua fled the fighting that has been raging in Taiz for several months. The nine-month-old girl weighs just under nine pounds, which is a weight more common for newborn babies.
“It was very difficult to find food, so we came here,” explains Saloua. “We need help.”
Access to essentials for daily survival, including food and medicine, is an ongoing challenge for families due to the embargo and restrictions imposed on the country.
“In Al Hali, a shantytown on the outskirts of Hodeidah, many families depend on the generosity of the local baker who gives out bread to people who need it every morning,” says Hutchinson. “But how long can this situation continue?”
Action Against Hunger has published a report on the nutritional impact of Yemen’s 20-month conflict on its civilians. You can find it here.
*Humanitarian Needs Overview : http://ochayemen.org/hno-2017/#homepage
**European Commission’s Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection (ECHO)