Yemen’s children face severe malnutrition

The famine in Yemen is set to claim hundreds of thousands of young lives and impact many millions more warn UN Agencies. In a new report by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund), the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners, state that nearly 2.3 million children under the age of 5 in Yemen are estimated to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021. Of these, 400,000 children will suffer severe acute malnutrition and could die if they do not receive urgent treatment.

Of the 2.3 million children under the age of 5 suffering from malnutrition in Yemen, there has been a marked increase in those suffering from acute malnutrition and severe acute malnutrition of 16% and 22%.

The organisations warn that the situation is desperate in Yemen. Years of armed conflict have taken their toll on citizens, with many jobless or unable to work and support their families, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation much worse.

Both crises have combined to create the perfect storm: severe economic decline, vital infrastructure destroyed or damaged, community breakdown and increased infectious diseases, as well as widespread food insecurity – have left many millions of Yemenis extremely vulnerable.

It is all too common for the organisations to hear of families with nothing to eat, many families are having to resort to reducing the quantity or quality of the food they eat, and in some cases, families are forced to do both resulting in malnutrition -particularly in children.

Also, there is a lack of international aid or intervention because of redirected funds due to the pandemic, this coupled with severe funding shortfall for the on-the-ground humanitarian response has exasperated the current situation. Only US$ 1.9 billion of the US$ 3.4 billion that the Humanitarian Response plan need was actually received in 2020.

The Eastern Mediterranean Office for the WHO, (EMRO) has said that acute malnutrition, particularly among young children and mothers in Yemen, has increased with each year of conflict, but with “a significant deterioration during 2020 driven by high rates of disease, such as diarrhoea, respiratory tract infections and cholera, and rising rates of food insecurity”.

EMRO listed the areas suffering the most from famine, Aden, Al Dhale, Hajjah, Hodeida, Lahj, Taiz and Sana'a City, these seven governorates account for over half the acute malnutrition cases predicted in 2021.

“Families in Yemen have been in the grip of conflict for too long, and more recent threats such as COVID-19 have only been adding to their relentless plight,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu. “Without security and stability across the country, and improved access to farmers so that they are provided with the means to resume growing enough and nutritious food, Yemen’s children and their families will continue to slip deeper into hunger and malnutrition.”

“These numbers are yet another cry for help from Yemen where each malnourished child also means a family struggling to survive” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley. “The crisis in Yemen is a toxic mix of conflict, economic collapse and a severe shortage of funding to provide the life-saving help that’s desperately needed. But there is a solution to hunger, and that’s food and an end to the violence. If we act now, then there is still time to end the suffering of Yemen’s children.”

Further reading

The full EMRO news item:

Full UN report:

Analysis page: