Malnutrition is on a rapid rise in certain areas of Yemen, such as the Hodeidah region where it has risen by 31 percent from last year according to a UNICEF official.
Mona Ali Aiash is one of many local volunteers that operate a malnutrition program launched by UNICEF. She says the program urges mothers to breast feed instead of using a bottle which can lead to diarrhea and severe malnutrition.
A small clinic in al-Hashbrah which opened last year receives five patients on a daily basis; some are new cases, some recurring. Dr. Hassan Qadri said that of the 113 patients under the age of five that visited, 42 have recovered from their condition.
According to UNICEF’s Yemen representative, approximately 750,000 children will experience acute malnutrition this year, of which two-thirds face the risk of lifelong mental and physical impairment, or worse, death.
UNICEF is planning to increase the number of local programs to meet the overwhelming needs of malnourished children.
“We plan to expand the network of volunteers, and will try to train them in integrated programs to address a number of issues, nutrition, health and water. The volunteer unit must be armed with more than one program, so as to serve the village better,” Rasha al-Ardhi, project officer of health and nutrition, said.
Around seven million Yemenis desperately need food, with many families spending half their income on bread alone, and purchasing water consumes another 30-40 percent of their income.
Yemen is already one of the poorest countries in the Arab world which has been plagued with political disorder, especially over the past year that saw protests demanding the ouster of its president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Analysts believe Yemen is on the precipice of a humanitarian crisis worse than Sudan experienced last year.
Many aid agencies have pulled out of the country as national violence escalated, and are awaiting signs of stability, even though desperate humanitarian assistance needs to be delivered.