Category Archives: UNICEF

Without Nutrition and Education Yemen Cannot Thrive

UNICEF Nutrition Officer Dr. Rajia Sharhan holds a young child at a therapeutic feeding centre in Sana'a, the Yemeni capital. (UNICEF Yemen/2011/Halldorsson)

UNICEF reports there are “very high” malnutrition rates among children under 5 years of age in the Hajjah governorate of Yemen. These startling findings include the Haradh, Bakeel Al Meer and Mustaba districts. The malnutrition rates are “way above the emergency thresholds.” Some of the cases are the most severe type of malnutrition.

The UNICEF report, released this week, says a team of aid workers “observed a nonfunctional public health system, high diarrhea prevalence, sub-optimal nutrition interventions especially for the severely malnourished.”

Without the proper nutrients small children are threatened with lasting physical and mental damage. Many children in Yemen never recover after being attacked by malnutrition. Intervention is needed swiftly.

UNICEF says that in the aforementioned districts 48.3% of the children are underweight, similar to the national average, a telling statistic about Yemen. The UN World Food Programme says, “the proportion of underweight children is the third highest in the world after India and Bangladesh.”

UNICEF has continued to run its operations in Yemen even during the most recent escalation of violence in the capital of Sanaa. However, the agency faces a funding shortage and does not have the resources to reach all cases of malnutrition. UNICEF and the World Food Programme depend on voluntary funding from governments and the public.

While there is increasing international focus on Yemen with its political struggles and Al Qaeda presence, this has not translated into support for child feeding and rehabilitation. Meanwhile, the presence of the U.S. military has escalated via drone planes as part of the fight against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Every day is a struggle for children to survive in Yemen. The crisis facing Yemen’s children extends to education where there is precious little of it. UNICEF is trying to help reverse this backward trend.

Geert Cappelaere, the director of UNICEF Yemen says, “Without an educated population, no country thrives. In a country where only 70% of boys and 60% of girls receive basic education no effort should be spared in making sure every single child is sent to school this year.” UNICEF, USAID, CHF International and Save the Children are partnering with Yemen’s Ministry of Education on a Back to School Campaign.

The idea is to increase the enrollment of Yemeni children in school and reduce the dropout rate. Both of these tasks are huge challenges in this impoverished country facing political upheaval. The campaign features stressing the importance of education, the distribution of school supplies as well as teacher training.

Roberta Contine of CHF International says, “I would like to stress the importance of implementing such capacity building interventions in regions with emergencies where teachers are set to provide psychosocial support for children aside from traditional education.”

Yemen’s Minister of Education Dr. Abdulsalam Al-Jawfi says, “Education is a collective responsibility for everyone…. We also appeal to political parties, community organizations, and the media and mosque preachers to enthusiastically engage during the campaign and ensure that access to education is guaranteed to all children without any exception.”

One tool in increasing school attendance though is missing. This would be the UN World Food Programme’s (WFP) school feeding initiative to provide take-home rations. Low funding for WFP forced suspension of the program in 2010. Since 2008, high food prices and low funding from the international community have devastated the WFP Food for Education in Yemen. Should this program be restarted and expanded nationwide, it would have a positive impact on increasing school attendance and lowering malnutrition rates.

Dr. Rajia Sharhan of UNICEF points out that school feeding would have the effect of improving the health of future mothers. Yemen needs to be developing a national school lunch program.

But Yemen faces so many hurdles before they can start attacking these problems. The political turmoil and violence has to come to an end. The international community has to support the work of UNICEF, WFP and other aid agencies.

Article first published as Without Nutrition and Education Yemen Cannot Thrive on Blogcritics.

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Filed under advocacy, global hunger, malnutrition, Middle East, plumpy'nut, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, UNICEF, World Food Programme, Yemen

Interview: Kate O’Malley of Irish Americans in Support of Somalia

The Irish National Famine Memorial Coffin Ship in County Mayo. Erected "To honor the memory of all who died, suffered and emigrated due to the Great Famine of 1845-1850, and the victims of all famines." (photo courtesy Irish Americans in Support of Somalia)

The drought in East Africa is so massive it threatens over 13 million people with starvation. That is almost as many people as the population of Maryland and Virginia combined.

The hardest hit area is conflict-torn Somalia where UNICEF says that a child dies every 6 minutes. Aid agencies are rushing to save lives. Millions of people have been displaced from their homes in the desperate search for food and water.

But will you see this story in the news? Not often, as reported by the Pew research center. Kate O’Malley of Rhode Island noticed this lack of media attention and took action to do something about it. She started a group called Irish Americans in Support of Somalia. She recently took time to talk about this group and how it connects the past with the present crisis in East Africa.

What gave you the idea to form Irish Americans in Support of Somalia?

I felt frustrated about the lack of media coverage about what was happening in Somalia. My husband is from Ireland and I am Irish American and we have two daughters who have grown up sharing time between both places. We were raised with stories of the bitter devastation of the Great Irish Famine of 150 years ago, when millions perished from starvation or were lost to the coffin ships as they fled in desperation. We felt honoring our history by helping famine victims today was a compelling connection that would resonate with others, so we started this campaign to spread awareness and raise funds to aid in the biggest humanitarian disaster of this century. What’s happening in the Horn of Africa in 2011 is a complex mess and far away, but we hope people, Irish or not, will consider this: In 1831 tens of thousands Native Americans were forcibly relocated with more than half dying on the march now known as the Trail of Tears. Just sixteen years later, despite their suffering and because they understood what starvation meant, members of the Choctaw Nation sent $710 to the starving in Ireland, a huge amount at the time. To this day the Irish are grateful. This history should inspire people to realize that if they could do that then, surely we can each do something today for the starving in Somalia and East Africa.

Do you have fundraising events planned?

Since the start of this campaign a few weeks ago, our focus has been to grow this all-volunteer grassroots campaign through online efforts to spread the word. Just like on St. Patrick’s Day, when everyone can be “Irish”, we’re inviting everyone to “like” our Facebook page or to email us at irishamericansforsomalia@gmail.com .

We’re providing information on how to donate, highlighting compelling historical connections and offering updates about what is happening in East Africa. We’re hoping people will share this information with their own networks, family and friends. This week we met with the Rhode Island Irish Famine Memorial Committee who spearheaded the building of a beautiful memorial to the victims of the Great Irish Famine. As a living memorial, fighting hunger today has always been a part of their mission. They plan to present a donation at an October 9th ceremony at the Memorial in Providence and to encourage their many member Irish American organizations to get behind this effort. Folks should stay tuned for information on upcoming events.

Where will the funds raised by Irish Americans in Support of Somalia be distributed?

We are supporting Edesia, a non-profit, operating its Providence, RI factory around the clock to produce enough Plumpy’nut, to feed 50,000 children a day in the Horn of Africa. Plumpy’nut is designed to treat severe malnutrition in young children who can make a full recovery in just 4 – 8 weeks. Just $50 provides a full life saving treatment. Edesia supplies its products at cost to such organizations as USAID, UNICEF, World Food Programme and Save the Children. Donations help them lower the cost even further so their partners can buy and distribute larger quantities. I visited the plant to see production, learn how it’s being distributed and to meet the people behind Edesia. They’re creating local jobs, they’re saving lives globally, and they need our help now. We’re asking people to donate to them directly at the Edesia donation page and to please write Irish Americans in Support of Somalia in the purpose line of the donation page or on the memo line of their check. This way we can track total donations and determine how effective we’re being.

How can someone get involved with Irish Americans in Support of Somalia?

Helping to spread the word, through Facebook, email, or conversations with family and friends is key to launching this effort and getting people to start paying attention to what’s happening in the Horn of Africa. Our effort is not limited to just Irish Americans, and we are hoping to work with as many individuals and organizations as possible to get the message out. We hope such groups will consider hosting events for this cause, making appeals to their members, or distributing information at their regularly scheduled activities. We have print and electronic materials we can offer. We also ask that people help us with networking and with media contacts, particularly in the Irish American press. If they can make a donation in the name of Irish Americans in Support of Somalia at Edesia Donation Page , all the better.

Article first published as Interview: Kate O’Malley of Irish Americans in Support of Somalia on Blogcritics.

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Filed under advocacy, drought, East Africa, East Africa drought, Edesia, famine, global hunger, History, Ireland, Kenya, malnutrition, plumpy'nut, social media, Somalia, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, UNICEF, World Food Programme

Yemen Nears Breaking Point, Humanitarian Crisis Could Worsen

Aisha is an internally displaced Yemeni girl in Southern Yemen living in an elementary school. She is one of many Yemeni children who are suffering from hunger and displacement. WFP and other aid agencies need support in order to carry out child feeding and rehabilitation programs. (WFP/Abeer Etefa)

As fighting intensifies in Yemen’s capital of Sanaa, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has been forced to limit hunger relief operations in that area. The United Nations is evacuating some of its staff from Sanaa.

WFP is carrying on its relief operations in other parts of Yemen, a country with one of the highest rates of hunger and malnutrition in the world. The WFP mission is plagued by a lack of funding and an inability to reach all of the needy. WFP relies on voluntary funding from governments and the public.

What started earlier this year in Yemen with peaceful demonstrators seeking freedom from a corrupt President has now evolved into a shootout between rival factions seeking to gain power. The fear now is that civil war could erupt in Yemen which will bring immense human suffering.

Millions of Yemenis are already deeply mired in hunger and poverty. Many are getting by on very little sustenance as it is. A civil war will push Yemen closer and closer to famine.

Yemenis have had to bear the brunt of years of internal strife and poverty. The World Food Programme currently is feeding displaced persons in Northern Yemen who suffered through years of conflict between the government and rebels. In Southern Yemen thousands have been displaced this year from fighting between the government and suspected Al Qaeda militants. WFP is feeding them as part of an emergency safety net operation which is intended to reach over 2 million Yemenis, although lack of funding has hampered this operation.

Throughout most of Yemen, families can barely afford bread as food prices are high. These prices have skyrocketed since protests against President Saleh began earlier this year.

Yemen needs a peaceful solution and fast. President Obama at the UN said yesterday, “In Yemen, men, women and children gather by the thousands in towns and city squares every day with the hope that their determination and spilled blood will prevail over a corrupt system. America supports those aspirations. We must work with Yemen’s neighbors and our partners around the world to seek a path that allows for a peaceful transition of power from President Saleh, and a movement to free and fair elections as soon as possible.”

Yemen also needs humanitarian aid and every effort must be made right now to ensure that it can flow.The international community has to stand by Yemen. This means full funding for World Food Programme and UNICEF operations. Food stocks have to be ensured.

UNICEF , which feeds malnourished children, needs to have a full supply of plumpy’nut food and medicines to reach all suffering children in Yemen. Tens of thousands of children die in Yemen each year from easily preventable causes. The situation could deteriorate even further.

About a week ago, there was at least some hope of a peaceful settlement and transition of power. There was a back-to-school campaign to be launched that UNICEF was promoting with Yemen’s ministry of education. This was a project full of hope that could build Yemen’s future. But then the fighting began.

UNICEF’s Yemen director Geert Cappelaere said earlier this week, “it is another sad day sitting behind a desk with heavy shooting in the background.”

To sign a petition supporting humanitarian relief in Yemen, visit CARE 2 .

For the latest breaking news on the crisis, see the New York Times with Laura Kasinof reporting from Sanaa.

Article first published as Yemen Nears Breaking Point, Humanitarian Crisis Could Worsen on Blogcritics.

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Filed under global hunger, malnutrition, Middle East, peace, plumpy'nut, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, UNICEF, World Food Programme, Yemen

Obama, Congress Should Copy JFK’s First Days in Office and Protect the Hungry

President Kennedy supported food aid programs at home and abroad

Hunger is on the offensive, even in the United States. The Department of Agriculture reports that 49 million Americans struggle to get food. Worldwide, nearly one billion people suffer from hunger, and child malnutrition is rampant in East Africa, Afghanistan, Yemen and many other areas.

President Obama and the Congress, as they grapple with the federal budget, also need to protect the hungry. They can take a page from President John F. Kennedy’s playbook for his first days in office, back in 1961.

Kennedy’s first act as president was to order food aid to hungry people in the U.S., particularly in West Virginia. Unemployment was high, and it was critical that food support be given during a time of great strain on the people there. Kennedy’s plan involved distribution of food stamps to the needy. And it worked.

Kennedy reported on this aid in 1962, stating, “Low income families are receiving better diets…Retail food store sales in these areas increased 8 percent in dollar volume. There have been savings in distribution costs and benefits to the economy of the food stamp communities.”

Also the Kennedy administration worked on improvements to the national school feeding program. This is a vital safety net to ensure that children in impoverished families do not suffer from lack of nutrition.

Today, protection is needed for families all across America, where unemployment rates are skyrocketing. Demand for food banks is growing. Many Americans face a struggle to afford food. But support from the federal government is dwindling, with programs like the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) facing reduced funding levels. Emergency food banks across the country count on TEFAP for supplies.

Vicki Escarra of Feeding America says, “As Congress and the administration look for ways to reduce the federal deficit, it is more critical than ever to protect funding for nutrition programs that provide the first line of defense against hunger in America.”

President Obama and the Congress should expand food aid for hungry Americans. Programs like TEFAP, food stamps, the national school lunch program, including summer feeding, need to be emphasized. Like JFK on his first days, they need to do what is right for the American people.

But also like JFK, Obama and Congress have to think globally and consider our national security interests abroad. Fighting hunger overseas is an essential part of our foreign policy. JFK realized this. His predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower knew this when he signed Public Law 480, which became known as Food for Peace. This program is the primary tool for the U.S. in fighting hunger abroad.

President Kennedy, in his second executive order, created a White House office for Food for Peace. This bolstered the existing program and made fighting hunger a top priority, where it also needs to be now.

Today, the U.S. should expand its food for peace program, not reduce funding as proposed in budgets put forward by Congress earlier this year. Hunger-fighting initiatives are relatively inexpensive and do not contribute to our debt problems. Moreover, they are essential in terms of promoting stability and economic development abroad.

The U.S. simply cannot afford to retreat from fighting the menace of hunger. There is tremendous suffering ongoing in East Africa in the famine and drought zone. In Afghanistan, where we are trying to win the peace, a hunger crisis is growing, and food aid programs face huge budget shortfalls. Likewise, in Yemen hunger is on the rise while the World Food Programme and UNICEF remain low on funds to combat the scourge.

One area where the U.S. really needs to step up is in child feeding. When Kennedy became president, he named George McGovern the Food for Peace Director. McGovern led a vigorous campaign against hunger, including school meals for millions of children in Brazil, South Korea, India, Poland and other countries. Many of these nations developed their own national school feeding program from this effort.

Today, we need that same kind of resolve as funding for school lunch programs in developing countries remains low. In Afghanistan, for instance, reduced funding for the World Food Programme forced about 500,000 children to lose their school meal ration. That is hardly an epitome of a reconstruction going well.

In Haiti, support for school feeding is critical to turning the corner on rebuilding the country from the earthquake. We do not want to cut funding now. Food for Peace as well as the McGovern-Dole school lunch program need increased funding.

Food aid programs have historically received bipartisan support. They should today as well. For the future of the United States and that of other countries rests on the most basic foundation–food and nutrition. Food for Peace must remain a top priority for the current government as it was the day President Kennedy took office fifty years ago.

Article first published as Obama, Congress Should Copy JFK’s First Days in Office and Protect the Hungry on Blogcritics.

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Filed under Afghanistan, drought, Dwight Eisenhower, East Africa, East Africa drought, global hunger, History, Kenya, malnutrition, Middle East, plumpy'nut, School feeding, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, UNICEF, World Food Programme, Yemen

Articles on Fighting Hunger in Yemen- by William Lambers

Interview in Yemen Times

Hunger in Yemen: An Activist Spotlight

Food for Education is the Great Hope for Yemen (Yemen Post)

Fighting Hunger in Yemen (New York Times letter)

Interview: Rajia Sharhan of UNICEF Yemen

Interview: Geert Cappelaere of UNICEF on the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen

Plotting the 2012 War Against Hunger in Yemen

Budget Debates in Congress Loom over Yemen Crisis

WFP Director Warns of Hunger Threat Stalking Yemen

Over 1 Million in Yemen Denied Emergency Food Rations

Inside Yemen: Hunger from Conflict, High Food Prices

Without Nutrition and Education Yemen Cannot Thrive

Yemen Nears Breaking Point, Humanitarian Crisis Could Worsen

U.S. Increases Drone Attacks in Yemen, Hunger Relief Remains Low on Funding

In Yemen’s Arab Spring, Crucial to Look Beyond Al Qaeda

Yemen: Food for Peace Plan Low on Funding

Yemen’s Future is Being Made Now

Could Yemen be the Next Somalia?

Crisis in Yemen: Children Suffering from Malnutrition

1000 Days of Peril in Yemen: The Children Must Be Fed

Rapidly Deteriorating Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen

U.S.- Yemen Partnership Can Mean Food for Peace

For Yemen it’s Bread, Fuel or Chaos

Hunger in Yemen Expanding at Alarming Rate

Yemen Undergoing Its Worst Humanitarian Crisis Ever

U.S. Strategy in Yemen Should Fight Hunger

Underfunded Hunger Relief Mission Resumes in Yemen, but Thousands Displaced

Street Battles in Yemen

Plumpynut to the Rescue in Yemen

Yemen: What Can Be Done to Help Now

Yemen: Low Funding Limits Hunger Relief Operation

Yemen: When a “CARE Package” Brings Education and Hope

Osama bin Laden Dead, Al Qaeda Lives on in Food Insecure Yemen

Yemen: Recovering Livelihoods in Conflict-Torn North

Yemen: Children Echo Timeless Call for Peace

U.S. Wants Change in Yemen, But Where Is the food?

Food to Reinforce Peace Process in Yemen

For Yemen There Is No Alternative To Peace

Yemen: Protests, Chaos and Hunger

Protests in Food-Insecure Yemen

London, Yemen, and Plumpy’nut

Like Egypt, Yemen Suffers from High Food Prices

Yemen Hunger Relief Mission Underfunded by Nearly $70 Million

Clinton in Yemen as Humanitarian Crisis Reaches Tipping Point

What Matters to the People of Yemen

More Powerful Than Al Qaeda: Hunger in Yemen

Malnourished Children in Yemen Need Plumpy’nut

Yemen: hunger relief mission remains woefully underfunded

Petition to President Obama and the Senate on fighting hunger in Yemen

WFP, Yemen launch emergency operation

Fighting Al-Qaeda, Hunger, and Poverty in Yemen

U.S. and Allies Ignoring Child Hunger Crisis in Yemen

Friends of Yemen can restart vital Food for Education program

Obama’s MDG Speech Will Test Yemen Policy

Civilians need aid after Yemen offensive against Al Qaeda

Food for Education critical for Yemen and the Millennium Development Goals

Feed Those Displaced by the War in Yemen

What’s troubling about the Pentagon’s plan for Yemen

Against Hunger, Poverty, Desperation and Chaos in Yemen

Senate needs to back Yemen resolution with food aid

Al Qaeda, War, Hunger, and Poverty

Relief Fund Created for Victims of Conflict and Hunger in Yemen

Food For Education Is The Great Hope For Yemen

Yemen Needs Its Own Roadmap to End Hunger

White House says UN relief plan for Yemen woefully underfunded

Obama’s Feed the Future Should Include Food for Education in Yemen

Stopping the Hunger and Despair in Yemen

World Food Programme provides aid to Somali refugees in Yemen

Remembering Hoover’s child feeding message as we face hunger crisis in Yemen

Unrest in Yemen Over Food Shortages: U.S. and Allies Need to Take Action

World Food Programme provides aid to Somali refugees in Yemen

Obama’s Policy Toward Yemen is Failing on Food

Hunger crisis escalates in Yemen, World Food Programme appeals for help

Hunger crisis escalates in Yemen, U.S. needs to show leadership

Low funding for World Food Programme causes ration cuts for victims of conflict in Yemen

Low Funding for WFP Threatens Vital Child Feeding Programs in Yemen

Interview with Andrew Moore of Save the Children in Yemen

Clinton’s Call for Development in Yemen Cannot Go Forward Without Food for Education

“The best way to really get at some of these underlying problems that exist is through an effective development strategy.” — Hillary Clinton

Humanitarian aid critical for peace process in Yemen

President Obama must lead to stop hunger crisis in Yemen

Sounding the alarm on hunger in Yemen

Conflict, hunger and the suffering of women in Yemen

U.S. Policy Toward Yemen Missing Key Component: Food

Hunger, Conflict, and the Suffering of Women in Yemen

150 Million in Military Aid for Yemen, Still No Funding for School Feeding

Jennifer Mizgata of the UN World Food Programme on the Hunger Crisis in Yemen

Hunger the Worst Enemy of Peace in Yemen

Lack of Funding for School Feeding in Yemen Not a Sound Strategy for Peace

Interview: Salman Omer of the World Food Programme in Yemen

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Filed under global hunger, malnutrition, Middle East, peace, plumpy'nut, Save the Children, School feeding, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, Uncategorized, UNICEF, World Food Programme, Yemen

We Can Help Yemen With Food Aid

WFP also hopes to run a Food for Education program to give Yemeni children rations and encourage class attendance. This program has suffered from such a lack of funding that WFP has reduced its planned beneficiaries from 115,000 down to 59,000.

Catherine Herridge of Fox News just published a story about the growing threat of Al Qaeda in Yemen. Political instability in Yemen this year, with protesters calling for the removal of President Saleh, has weakened the ability of that government to tackle the Al Qaeda threat.

Herridge’s report quotes Matt Olsen, the new head of the National Counterterrorism Center, telling the Senate about Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Olsen says, “Whether Yemen is a safe haven, we are very concerned about the ability of the Yemeni government at this point to sustain any strong counterterrorism efforts, given the governance challenges that it faces. So, AQAP has had the opportunity to recruit inside Yemen and to plan and plot inside Yemen.”

But it’s critical when having the discussion of Yemen to also go beyond Al Qaeda and the political turmoil.

Far less reported are areas where the international community can take action immediately: hunger and malnutrition. Food for hungry Yemenis will be a most crucial oasis of calm in the storm of political unrest and Al Qaeda.

As we speak, millions of Yemenis are being crushed by high food prices. They cannot access basic foods. This was a crisis even before the Arab Spring came along. The political unrest has made it much worse.

A report from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) states that “the price of bread is still 50% above what it had been at the beginning of the year. In light of the fact that many Yemenis already spend between 30% and 35% of their daily income on bread, the inflation of bread prices could prove to be very damaging to the food security of Yemen’s poorest families.”

There are severely malnourished children in Yemen who could be saved with a simple intervention. Because these children are the future of that country, it’s crucial that those in power remember this when making Yemen policy.

The first step the international community can take is to boost the UN World Food Programme’s response to hunger in Yemen. Currently, WFP operations have received low funding and cannot reach all the hungry. Their plan involves emergency rations to help families afflicted with high food prices. But low funding means not all needy families can receive the rations. In addition, WFP is feeding the displaced in Southern and Northern Yemen.

An investment of around $60 million would ensure that full rations could be provided. Spread out over a coalition of nations, this is a relatively inexpensive investment.

Second is support for UNICEF’s work in treating malnourished children. This is most crucial for building the future of Yemen. A full supply of plumpy’nut needs to be shipped to Yemen as soon as possible to cover all the malnutrition cases. Again, this is another relatively small investment in the millions of dollars.

The third phase is to include Food for Work projects to build infrastructure and improve agricultural development. A national school lunch program including a take-home ration element will need to be instituted. This will be an effort with the government and communities working together. For instance, local shop owners and farmers would ideally become suppliers, at least in part of the school feeding program.

Food is a critical component of any peace plan for Yemen. It will strengthen the people of Yemen so they can better resolve these crisis areas. For food is the foundation of all things, whether it is peace, political stability, education, or economic development, all of which will inhibit Al Qaeda’s growth.

It’s very important to look at Yemen through this lens, particularly for those in power who make policy decisions about how to best help Yemen navigate the stormy waters in the Arab Spring

Article first published as In Yemen’s Arab Spring, Crucial to Look Beyond Al Qaeda on Blogcritics.

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Filed under global hunger, malnutrition, Middle East, peace, plumpy'nut, School feeding, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, UNICEF, World Food Programme, Yemen

Enter Plumpy’nut: The Life-Saving Food So Desperately Needed in Yemen

Yemen is living in peril with dangerous political instability, and violence in the south between the government and suspected Al-Qaeda militants.

UNICEF Nutrition Officer Dr. Rajia Sharhan holds a young child at a therapeutic feeding centre in Sana'a, the Yemeni capital. (UNICEF Yemen/2011/Halldorsson)

But for a newborn child in Yemen, the greatest danger lies in lack of nutrition, for their future hinges on whether they can receive it.

The first 1000 days of life are the critical window for children. If they do not receive the right foods, they can suffer lasting physical and mental damage. If this irreversible damage occurs, it will mean stunted growth, increased health problems, and an inability to learn. If you have this occurring in a country, you cannot progress.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) reports: “Half of Yemen’s children are chronically malnourished and 1 out of 10 does not live to reach the age of five. Such emergency levels of chronic malnutrition – or stunting – are second globally only to Afghanistan, the proportion of underweight children is the third highest in the world after India and Bangladesh.”

Enter Plumpy’nut. This is a special peanut paste that if given to children can rescue them from the potentially deadly malnutrition. It is desperately needed in Yemen. But not enough funding is provided to aid agencies for this to happen. Child hunger issues are often the victims of policy planning by the international community. Not enough emphasis is given.

If you want to help Yemen, send them Plumpy’nut. UNICEF is trying to provide “Plumpy” to as many malnourished Yemeni children as possible.

Dr. Wisam Al-timimi of UNICEF says: “We are planning to reach 36,000 severely acute malnourished children” at a cost of US$ 4.6 million. But there are 90,000 such cases of severely malnourished children in the country. More funding and resources would be needed to reach all of them. These are the most severe cases. Many other children are suffering from malnutrition.”

There are 450,000 children under five suffering from acute malnutrition and another 360,000 suffering from moderate acute malnutrition. These are different levels of the basic threat of malnutrition.

In short, small children are desperately in need of life-saving and life-changing food in Yemen. This takes on even more urgency when you consider that food prices have gone up in recent months in Yemen. There is more displacement in the south due to fighting, so the numbers of small children at risk is likely to increase in the coming months.

Dr. Al-timimi explains: “Cases of malnutrition is piling up now and soon we’ll be in a real humanitarian crisis; the same is applied as that group of very young children (that cohort who is enduring the political turmoil and absorbing the shocks) are currently at different stages of malnutrition and at the same time not receiving their routine vaccines…… unvaccinated children and malnutrition is a ticking time bomb.”

The best way the international community can help Yemen is through nutrition/health. These are the foundations of peace and progress in Yemen. It starts with plumpynut and health care for the youngest of children. It means supporting underfunded food aid programs run by the World Food Programme. It continues with building longer-term food security so foods like Plumpy’nut will no longer be needed.

It means looking down the road in Yemen, and staying ahead of the disaster of hunger and malnutrition. Acting now will be relatively inexpensive as opposed to waiting for a massive disaster to occur.

Article first published as 1000 Days of Peril in Yemen: The Children Must Be Fed on Blogcritics.

Tune in to NBC Nightly News on September 1st at 6:30 to see a story on plumpy’nut producer Edesia.

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Filed under Edesia, malnutrition, Middle East, plumpy'nut, UNICEF, World Food Programme, Yemen