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More disaster looms for children caught in Sa’ada emergency, Yemen

More disaster looms for children caught in Sa’ada emergency

UNICEF-supported screening reveals extremely high rates of child malnutrition in conflict-affected areas of northern Yemen

Sana’a, October 20, 2010: UNICEF is sounding a loud alarm over staggering rates of child malnutrition in Sa’ada, a northern governorate that has been affected by conflict in recent years. The dire situation became fully clear when the findings of a UNICEF-supported screening, conducted by the Ministry of Public Health and Population, were released earlier this month.

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.

“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,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Representative in Yemen. “As winter approaches, thousands of children are at serious risk if we are not able to act immediately.”

Acute malnutrition is a chronic and country-wide problem among children under five in Yemen. UNICEF figures show that 15 per cent of children nationwide suffer from global acute malnutrition. The protracted conflict in Sa’ada has severely worsened the situation for conflict-affected children.

The extremely volatile security situation has impeded access, limiting the reach of humanitarian agencies such as UNICEF. Therefore, delivery of basic relief items, including ready-to-use therapeutic food, has been severely constrained.

Food assistance alone is not enough to address malnutrition. Major efforts are needed to support household food security, change existing feeding practices and behaviours, provide minimum basic health and nutrition services, including therapeutic food, and ensure safe water, sanitation and hygiene for populations affected by the conflict.

UNICEF therefore calls upon all parties to the conflict in Sa’ada as well as the international community, including the Qatari mediation delegation currently visiting Yemen, to ensure that immediate access for humanitarian actors is granted to the entire governorate of Sa’ada to ensure children can receive necessary life-saving assistance.




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