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Tahani’s story: Overcoming malnutrition amidst conflict in Yemen

UNICEF Yemen/2017/Malak
© UNICEF Yemen/2017/Malak
Tahani of Hodeidah, is one of 385,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Yemen. The living conditions of thousands of people have worsened due to the conflict in Yemen.

By Malak Shaher

Hodeida, 26 October 2017 - Khadiga Ahmed of Al-Zaydia district, Hodeidah is trying to make her daughter, Tahani, smile and play with other children but sadly, all in vain. Tahani looks feeble and is unable to move or play with other children inside a Therapeutic Feeding Center (TFC) located in Al-Zaydia district; a facility which provides healthcare to children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. This is the second time Tahani is visiting the center to be treated for severe malnutrition along with other complications such as fever and cough.

Khadiga shares that Tahani was born in 2015, a few months after the war in Yemen began. She is the youngest among three other siblings and they all live in extremely difficult conditions.

Hodeidah is one of the poorest governorates in Yemen. Majority of its residents work in trade, farming or fishing. The living conditions of thousands of people have especially worsened because of the conflict in Yemen. This includes Tahani and her family, who find it difficult to even two meals a day.

“My husband works in a construction site, farming or any work he may get. It has been difficult for him to find work. So he cannot provide food for us many of the times. We eat mostly eat just a meal a day,” Khadiga added.

The Therapeutic Feeding Center of Taibah; a local non-governmental organization, welcomed Tahani when she was two years old. She had lower Mid Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) measurement to determine the level of malnutrition; she weighed only 6.3 kilos when she arrived at the center in September. Dr. Mahfouth Noman, who is taking care of Tahani, says that she weighed significantly less than mates for both her height and age.

“Due to severe acute malnutrition, Tahani feels weak all the time and cannot express joyfulness like other normal children,” says Dr. Noman. He adds that most children who come to the center for treatment, suffer from chest infections which worsen their health.

Besides Tahani, there are six other children suffering from severe acute malnutrition at different stages due to complications. This center is one of five TFCs that UNICEF is fully supporting in Hodeidah. Dr. Khaled Al-Shaibani, UNICEF Health and Nutrition Specialist, says that the malnutrition cases in Hodeidah are the worst in Yemen. Tahani is one of 385,000 suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Yemen.

UNICEF Yemen/2017/Malak
© UNICEF Yemen/2017/Malak
Khadiga Ahmed of Al-Zaydia district, Hodeidah with her two year old daughter Tahani in a UNICEF supported Therapeutic Feeding Center. This is the second time Tahani is visiting the center to be treated for severe malnutrition with complications.

Between January and August 2017, UNICEF supported the treatment of more than 46,000 children under the age of five in Hodeidah. They received treatment for malnutrition in TFCs, primary health centers and through mobile clinics,” says Dr. Al-Shaibani. He adds that “UNICEF is partnering with the World Bank and other donors to reach 92,000 children this year.”

TFCs work to treat children from malnutrition and complications such as diarrhea, fever and chest infections. Children with severe acute malnutrition and complications are admitted in TFCs; once they are stabilized, they are discharged. The children then are referred to a facility which is close to their community for follow up and continuous treatment until they fully recover.

After a week of receiving healthcare at the TFC, Tahani has recovered from fever and coughing and weighed 6.6 kilos when she was discharged. She was then referred to the rural hospital at her district, Al-Zaydia in Hodeidah.

“We provide Al-Zaydia hospital with necessary medications, fuel, and one ambulance so we help it keep providing its services to people,” said Dr. Abdullah Salem, emergency officer at WHO Hodeidah.

Thanks to Humanitarian Pooled Fund, UNICEF is supporting TFCs in Yemen. As part of the World Bank, WHO and UNICEF Emergency Health and Nutrition Project (EHNP), WHO is supporting public hospitals in urban and rural areas by providing essential medications and supporting their operational costs, while UINCEF is supporting public primary health facilities with essential medications, operational cost and mobile clinics that provide integrated healthcare to children under five years of age and to pregnant women. EHNP aims to support the health system in Yemen to be able to continue providing healthcare to people.

The EHNP receives grants from IDA, the World Bank's fund for the world's poorest countries including Yemen. 



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