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.