Overview of Nutrition Needs in Yemen
Despite significant humanitarian efforts over the last three years and limited improvements in stability, the humanitarian situation in Yemen continues to require significant external assistance. An estimated 14.7 million people need some form of humanitarian aid. Long-standing underdevelopment, poor governance, environmental stress, demo-graphic pressure and continued political instability have exacerbated this vulnerability and continue to be main drivers of the current crises.
Chronic and acute malnutrition remain a major problem in Yemen. With 58 per cent of children stunted, Yemen has the world’s second highest rate of chronic malnutrition among children, second only to Afghanistan. Poor feeding practices, lack of education, high rate of morbidity from childhood illnesses, widespread food insecurity, poor hygiene and sanitation, limited access to health and nutrition services all contribute to malnutrition.
By 2014 an estimated 1,060,000 children 6-59 months are expected to be acute malnourished. About 280,000 will be severe acute malnourished. These children are considerably at risk of death than normal children.
Recent nutrition surveys indicated critical (GAM *>=15%) and serious (GAM 10-14.9%) emergency level acute malnutrition among children under age of five is experienced in most parts of the country. A total of 107 districts from Hodeida, Hajjah , Raymah,Lahj, Taize ,Abyan, and Aden governorates fall under critical emergency nutrition situation category . The situation in Al Jawf and Sa’ada is believed to be no different given the dire health, water and sanitation situation. Forty-six districts from Al Dhale, Amran, Al Mahaweet, and parts of Lahj are categorised as governorates with serious nutritional emergency situation. The Acute malnourished children in Critical and Serious regions represent about 70% of the total caseload in the country.
Malnutrition can have debilitating consequences, particularly for children who risk life-long deficiencies in their physical and cognitive development if they do not get the nutrients they need. Acute malnourished children often have increased risk of developing infections. If left untreated in time acute malnutrition in children may result in a more severe life threatening condition. Hence provision of supplementary and therapeutic care for acute malnourished children is essential to prevent excess morbidity and mortality of children in emergency situation.
In Yemen, malnutrition can often be ascribed to poor sanitation and poor child care practices. Given their importance for defense against infectious diseases like diarrhea, a clean water supply, sanitation and hygiene are important for preventing malnutrition. Repeated or persistent diarrhea, nutrition-related poverty and the greater propensity of malnourished children to develop diarrhea are all elements of the same vicious circle. This connection is illustrated by the correlation between areas with high malnutrition rates and areas with the greatest lack of access to safe water and sanitation facilities. Hence to prevent deterioration and/or development of malnutrition among vulnerable children, the interven-tions should focus in the provision of direct nutrition and nutrition sensitive services.
Provision of effective and comprehensive nutrition services however is challenging as the response capacity in Yemen is limited. Although there has been improvement in number and capacity of humanitarian nutrition actors in last couple of years ,there still exists significant unmet need for nutrition services. The progress in 2013 nutrition response can demonstrate the limited capacity. In the last ten month the nutrition cluster partners have managed to treat just 30per cent of the caseload, leaving a significant majority of needs unmet. In addition the coverage of emergency nutrition services in Sa’ada, Al Jawf, Lahj, and Taize governorates have been low. Program quality of SAM treatment programs is not yet to the acceptable level as a third of the admitted cases end up defaulting. Strengthening the response capacity of Ministry of health and national non-governmental organisations is essential to ensure effec-tive nutrition program.