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1000 Days of Peril in Yemen: The Children Must Be Fed

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Yemen is living in peril with dangerous political instability, and violence in the south between the government and suspected Al-Qaeda militants.

But for a newborn child in Yemen, the greatest danger lies in lack of nutrition, for their future hinges on whether they can receive it.

The first 1000 days of life are the critical window for children. If they do not receive the right foods, they can suffer lasting physical and mental damage. If this irreversible damage occurs, it will mean stunted growth, increased health problems, and an inability to learn. If you have this occurring in a country, you cannot progress.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) reports: “Half of Yemen’s children are chronically malnourished and 1 out of 10 does not live to reach the age of five. Such emergency levels of chronic malnutrition – or stunting – are second globally only to Afghanistan, the proportion of underweight children is the third highest in the world after India and Bangladesh.”

Enter Plumpy’nut. This is a special peanut paste that if given to children can rescue them from the potentially deadly malnutrition. It is desperately needed in Yemen. But not enough funding is provided to aid agencies for this to happen. Child hunger issues are often the victims of policy planning by the international community. Not enough emphasis is given.

If you want to help Yemen, send them Plumpy’nut. UNICEF is trying to provide “Plumpy” to as many malnourished Yemeni children as possible.

Dr. Wisam Al-timimi of UNICEF says: “We are planning to reach 36,000 severely acute malnourished children” at a cost of US$ 4.6 million. But there are 90,000 such cases of severely malnourished children in the country. More funding and resources would be needed to reach all of them. These are the most severe cases. Many other children are suffering from malnutrition.”

There are 450,000 children under five suffering from acute malnutrition and another 360,000 suffering from moderate acute malnutrition. These are different levels of the basic threat of malnutrition. 

In short, small children are desperately in need of life-saving and life-changing food in Yemen. This takes on even more urgency when you consider that food prices have gone up in recent months in Yemen. There is more displacement in the south due to fighting, so the numbers of small children at risk is likely to increase in the coming months.

Dr. Al-timimi explains: “Cases of malnutrition is piling up now and soon we’ll be in a real humanitarian crisis; the same is applied as that group of very young children (that cohort who is enduring the political turmoil and absorbing the shocks) are currently at different stages of malnutrition and at the same time not receiving their routine vaccines…… unvaccinated children and malnutrition is a ticking time bomb.”

The best way the international community can help Yemen is through nutrition/health. These are the foundations of peace and progress in Yemen. It starts with plumpynut and health care for the youngest of children. It means supporting underfunded food aid programs run by the World Food Programme. It continues with building longer-term food security so foods like Plumpy’nut will no longer be needed.

It means looking down the road in Yemen, and staying ahead of the disaster of hunger and malnutrition. Acting now will be relatively inexpensive as opposed to waiting for a massive disaster to occur.

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.