With Yemen’s health system near collapse, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned today that nearly 2.2 million children are acutely malnourished and require urgent care, while at least 462,000 are suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) – a near 200 per cent increase since 2014.
The Hodeida, Sa’ada, Taizz, Hajjah and Lahej governorates put together experience the highest SAM cases in the country. In some areas of Sa’ada, eight out of 10 children are chronically malnourished. Additionally, 1.7 million children suffer from Moderate Acute Malnutrition.
“The state of health of children in the Middle East’s poorest country has never been as catastrophic as it is today,” stated Dr. Meritxell Relaño, UNICEF Acting Representative in Yemen, adding that malnutrition in in the country is at an all-time high and increasing.
According to UNICEF, Yemen’s health system is on the verge of collapse, with less than a third of the population having access to medical care, and more than half of the health facilities are non-functional. In addition, every ten minutes at least one child dies of preventable diseases such as malnutrition, diarrhoea, and respiratory tract infections.
“Violence and conflict have reversed significant gains made in the last decade in the health and nutrition of Yemeni children. Diseases such as cholera and measles have spread and, with few health facilities functional, such outbreaks are taking a heavy toll on children,” said Dr. Relaño.
Throughout 2016, the agency provided treatment for 215,000 children in Yemen suffering from SAM, and also delivered vitamin supplements to more than four million children under the age of five. However, a funding shortage limits the agency’s actions. In 2017, UNICEF said it will need $70 million to provide the much-needed nutrition services to mothers and children across the country.
“We call on parties to the conflict to give us unhindered access to children in need across the country so we are able to deliver nutrition supplies, treat malnourished children and support Yemen’s health services,” urged Dr. Relaño.