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International community must prioritise Yemen's starving children
Action Against Hunger urges international community to prioritise treating malnourished children
Dec 19 2016
Sana'a, 20 December 2016 // As its staff report terrifying worsening of nutritional situation in parts of Yemen, Action Against Hunger is urging world leaders and other aid organisations to make starving children their priority.
The organisation's 170-strong team in Yemen say four times more children are at risk of dying of hunger in Hodeidah governorate than when the conflict began. It also reports significantly more children attending its clinics are in need of urgent inpatient care because of malnutrition and other complications.
Nearly 40 per cent of the children seen in our mobile clinics need treatment,” says Erin Hutchinson, country director of Action Against Hunger in Yemen. “Suffering from severe acute malnutrition, they often have other complications, such as malaria, pneumonia, and are severely ill.
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.
The latest UN estimates suggest one fifth of Yemen’s population – 4.5 million people – need nutritional assistance.
"Treating malnutrition must be an absolute priority for the humanitarian community, or many children will die," warned Hutchinson.
Reporting from Hodeidah
At Action Against Hunger's clinic in Al Khukha, Hodeidah, 10-month-old Hafida weighs just 4.8kg.
"At this age, she should weigh 7 kilos," says nurse Ali Ibrahim Abdullah as he examines her. He 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 patients required immediate inpatient treatment, a ratio the organisation says is far higher than in 2014.
Following a consultation, Action Against Hunger staff refer the most urgent cases to the nearest stabilisation centre, usually run by their colleagues or another charity. There, the mother and child are taken care of until the child’s health improves. Treatment then continues as an outpatient until they have completely recovered.
Trade restrictions must be lifted and aid access given
Restrictions and embargos on trade are preventing families' access to essential items, including food and medicine.
At a stabilisation centre in Hayis, supported by Action Against Hunger and the European Commission**, 12 of its14 beds are occupied.
Bra and her mother Saloua fled fighting that has been raging in Taiz for several months. The nine-month-old girl weighs just 4kg, the weight of a newborn baby.
"It was very difficult to find food so we came here,” explains Saloua. “But we need help.”
Hutchinson adds: "In Al Hali, a shantytown on the outskirts of Hodeidah, many families depend on the generosity of the local baker who distributes bread every morning. But how long can this situation continue?"
* Humanitarian Needs Overview: http://ochayemen.org/hno-2017/#homepage
** European Commission’s Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection (ECHO)
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