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Malnourished Children in Yemen Need Plumpy’nut

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The most important aid Yemen needs right now is food to save its youngest children from dangerous malnutrition. UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) are calling for arsenals of the nutritious peanut paste plumpy’nut to feed children in Yemen.

Impoverished Yemen has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world. WFP says “half of Yemen’s children are chronically malnourished.” When a small child does not receive proper nutrients in the first 1000 days of life, devastating physical or mental damage will occur.

A severely malnourished child being treated in Yemen. Foods like plumpy’nut can bring children back to health.  (UNICEF photo).

If a child suffers from severe acute malnutrition, a simple infection could lead to death. Even in more moderate cases, simple infections can descend the child deeper into malnourishment. This is what many children in Yemen face from birth.

Low funding for both WFP and UNICEF has limited their ability to help Yemen. Both aid agencies depend on donations from the international community. Food security has simply not been given a priority among donors, a huge failure in the foreign policy strategy of many governments.

The conflict in Northern Yemen (Sa’ada) between the government and rebels has placed small children in even further danger. The chaos from the conflict is increasing the risk of malnutrition.

A survey released by UNICEF found “Nearly half of the 26,246 children aged 6-59 months screened in five western districts of Sa’ada in July 2010 were found to be suffering from global acute malnutrition; in one area, the proportion was as high as three out of four children. Overall, 17 per cent of the children screened suffer from severe acute malnutrition and 28 per cent from moderate acute malnutrition. “

Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF’s director in Yemen says, “Malnutrition is the main underlying cause of death for young children in Yemen, and therefore this grim situation could spell disaster for the children of Sa’ada. As winter approaches, thousands of children are at serious risk if we are not able to act immediately.”

Dr. Wisam Al-timimi of UNICEF says “about $ 31 million will be needed to address both moderate and severe malnutrition country-wide.” Does that sound like much? Well, when you consider there was talk of the U.S. sending 1 billion in military aid to Yemen, the pricetag for plumpy’nut foods is hardly noticeable. Yet, tragically you are more likely to see a massive aid package for something else other than child nutrition.

Children in Yemen need plumpy’nut but low funding is preventing food assistance programs from going forward. (UNICEF photo)

If it receives funding, the World Food Programme will launch a two year strategy to fight child malnutrition in Yemen. WFP’s Georgia Warner says “included in the operation are 270,000 children (6-59 months) to receive targeted supplementary feeding (supplementary plumpy) and 412,000 children (6-24 months) to receive blanket supplementary feeding (plumpy’doz).” These are two variations of plumpy’nut meant to treat more moderate cases of malnutrition and save the children from descending into the most dangerous zone.

About 23 million dollars would enact WFP’s hunger fighting strategy. But like UNICEF, WFP has struggled to obtain funding for its Yemen programs. If this continues, another generation of children in Yemen will be lost.

A petition to support the hunger relief mission in Yemen is available at CARE 2.

Read more about plumpy’nut at the web site of Edesia.

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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.
  • irene wagner

    William Lambers, I appreciate your telling people about how they can help.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Be the Change: Save a Life
    Location: Worldwide
    Time: 10:00PM Friday, December 17th

    ABC News begins a year-long odyssey covering a story that spans the world; challenging Americans to save untold lives. “Be the Change: Save a Life” sets out on a journey across three continents and into nine countries, focused on the health conditions endured by the poorest of the poor and some of the innovations that may be able to save them.

    As part of “Be the Change: Save a Life” series on ABC News, a team came to film production at Edesia.

    Catch the launch this Friday the 17th on 20/20 and then a special with Christianne Amanpour this Sunday the 19th.

    Today at 10:00pm

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Thanks for the info William.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Thanks for the info William.