Bringing the care to the community

malnutrition screening

UNICEF Yemen
UNICEF Yemen/ 2019

10 December 2019

Sana’a, Yemen: Hamooda Hamood’s eyes well with tears when she talks about her babies. She is 27 years old and a mother to six-month-old twins (called Iyad and Jad.) In the face of the humanitarian crisis she has been struggling to keep them healthy.

“Two weeks after their birth, the babies' health began to deteriorate," Hamooda emotionally recounts. Looking down at the baby in her arms she continues; “Iyad stopped breastfeeding, his body began to waste away. I took him to the hospital and found out that he has a cleft palate, which prevents him from breastfeeding. (When I feed him) milk comes out of the nasal cavity causing him to suffocate."

UNICEF Yemen/ 2019
Hamooda Hamood Yahya and, in her lap, her severely malnourished son, Iyad, who has difficulty breastfeeding due to a cleft in his hard palate.
UNICEF Yemen/ 2019
Child Iyad with severe acute malnutrition.

Hamooda and her family were struck with another tragedy after learning that their other twin, Jad, has spinal problems. Without proper medical attention, his mobility would be seriously impacted.

"I was in good health during my pregnancy, and my babies were well,” Hamooda says while sobbing.

Hamooda's family are poor, their economic situation has been made worse by years of ongoing conflict. Her husband works as a security guard in a bank with a very small salary.

Hamooda had to sell her jewelry to pay for medical treatment for the two children. She is worried about the quality of services provided in government hospitals so is hesitant to take her children there. With her husband working during the day she is often unable to access routine medical checkups for her family.

In Yemen an estimated 360,000 children under 5 years of age are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Health systems teeter on the brink of collapse. Mobile medical teams have become a lifeline for communities unable to access healthcare. They travel throughout communities screening children for malnutrition and referring them for urgent medical care.

"Malnutrition is a serious disease. Children suffer amidst a lack of awareness in the community. However, (we use these opportunities) to communicate this to mothers," says Dr. Nadia al-Asbahi, a volunteer supervisor at the Gaza Medical Complex who helps mobilize these roving teams.

UNICEF Yemen/ 2019
Volunteer teams during field visits to detect cases of severe and moderate acute malnutrition.

"One of the volunteer teams visited me. I learned that Iyad was severely malnourished. I was told that he would be transferred to Al Sabeen Maternal Hospital (for medical care,)" Hamooda says. She was encouraged to get hospital care after seeing the mobile medical teams’ compassion for her children.

Community screenings are a vital mechanism by which humanitarian partners can find children in need of urgent malnutrition treatment. UNICEF, with generous support from the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRELIEF), the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Imdad fund, can deploy teams across the country to address malnutrition in the community. In 2019 alone, thanks to this support, over 1 million children aged 6 – 59 months will be screened for malnutrition and referred to care.