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Amid conflict and food insecurity in Yemen, a young girl fights for her life

UNICEF Yemen/2017/Farid
© UNICEF Yemen/2017/Farid
Khawla being examined by the doctor at the pediatric section of Al-Sabeen Hospital, Sana’a, Yemen. The one-year-old has been sick on and off since she was four months old.

Conflict in Yemen two years on: children continue to pay the heaviest price while families’ coping mechanisms are stretched to their limit. Nearly 10 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance >> Read the report

By Bismarck Swangin

Malnutrition rates in Yemen has increased by 200 per cent since 2014. Learn how UNICEF is supporting treatment centres for young children whose lives are at risk from severe acute malnutrition.

SANA'A, Yemen, 26 March 2017 – One-year-old Khawla Mohammed lies on the bed in Al-Sabeen Hospital in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a with a tube running through her nose. She is suffering from malnutrition and is also battling a chest infection which has affected her breathing.

At her side, her worried mother, Um Khawla, looks up to explain that her daughter has been sick on and off since she was four months old.

“At first it was diarrhoea. She became so light that I could carry her with one hand. Then she lost appetite. I got worried,” she says.

As a result, Um Khawla says she has had to visit the hospital regularly in the past six months. Doctors diagnosed Khawla with malnutrition and put her on treatment at a Therapeutic Feeding Centre, which is supported by UNICEF.

When she was brought in this time, little Khawla weighed just 13 pounds, far below the normal weight of 20 pounds for a child her age.

In the ten days that she has been in the hospital, she has been given F100, a high energy biscuit that is used to treat malnutrition. The biscuit is dissolved into a liquid that is then fed to her through a tube. She is also given antibiotics to treat her chest infection.

UNICEF Yemen/2017/Farid
© UNICEF Yemen/2017/Farid
A health worker examines Khawla. She is suffering from malnutrition and is also battling a chest infection which has affected her breathing.

The rate of children suffering from sever acute malnutrition in Yemen has soared by 200 per cent since 2014. Today, 462,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition and could die if not urgently treated. UNICEF estimates that nearly 10,000 children under the age of five may have died from preventable diseases.

Across the country, 17 million people – 60 per cent of the population – are food insecure. If we fail to respond, then more than 14 million people won’t know where their next meal will come from. An estimated 14.5 million people will need help in 2017 to ensure access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

Yemen is also facing an economic crises – a major fallout of the current conflict. Inflation rates and prices have skyrocketed. Families are fast running out of their meagre savings and as a result they are forced to cut down on food rations or skip meals.

“Before the conflict, my husband had a job and his salary was enough to meet our needs,” says Um Khawla. “When everything collapsed after the fighting started, we tried to grow vegetables in our farm but that was not safe due to bombs and bullets. Now we are reduced to nothing.”

Um Khawla is not only worried about Khawla, but also her two siblings back at home, left in the care of their grandmother. They too are not sure where their next meal will come from.

In spite of the insecurity, UNICEF and its partners are on the ground, scaling up screening and treatment for malnutrition and diseases, and providing safe water to prevent deaths. In 2017, UNICEF will scale up surveillance for malnutrition and provide treatment for 323,000 children under five suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Since January of this year, UNICEF has already supported the treatment for over 6,000 children.

With no end in sight to the conflict, the children of Yemen are living on the brink. Time is running out and the world needs to act fast to save their lives.





Falling through the cracks: The children of Yemen

Download the report:

English [PDF]

Arabic [PDF]


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