Doctors at a health centre in Beit al-Fakeeh city, southeast of Hudeidah, are monitoring this toddler’s weight gain to determine his level of malnutrition. A recent WFP food security survey found that acute malnutrition rates in Hudeida are the worst in the country at 28 percent, well above the emergency threshold of 15 percent. Beit al-Faqih today is a far cry from the status it held in the 17th century as a vibrant trading centre for Yemeni coffee.
The Red mark around the child’s arm indicates acute malnutrition. Children in Hudeida require immediate attention to address the critical situation they currently face. WFP has expanded its nutrition activities to provide nutritional support to children under five as well as pregnant and nursing mothers in targeted areas. WFP aims to reach 635,000 women and children under the age of five in 2012.
A mother signs a tracking sheet after handing in empty sachets of WFP specialised nutrition products. She and her daughter visit this health centre every few weeks to monitor the child’s health and receive a new stock of products. These specialised products prevent as well as treat moderate malnutrition among children under five.
Makkeya’s youngest child holds onto a sachet of therapeutic supplements. By treating moderate malnutrition, WFP tries to prevent children from slipping into severe malnutrition. In many emergency settings, for every child suffering from severe acute malnutrition, there are eight or ten suffering from moderate malnutrition.
In a modest household in Beit al-Faqih, Abdallah sleeps in a makeshift hammock as his mother tends to his six siblings. Abdallah’s mother had been receiving a WFP food ration throughout her pregnancy to ensure her child does not inherit malnutrition. The WFP food security survey found that undernourished Yemeni mothers had higher rates of children who were malnourished than healthy mothers. Nearly one-fifth of children in rural areas with a malnourished mother are acutely malnourished.
At a hospital in the capital Sanaa, two mothers sit by the side of their children as they are being treated of severe acute malnutrition. Under an agreement with UNICEF, WFP has the mandate to address moderate malnutrition. UNICEF focuses on severe malnutrition.
Doweid, a 10-month-old baby, is a regular at Sanaa’s Sabaeen Hospital as he suffers the effects of acute malnutrition. A malnourished child’s resistance to illness is lowered and when he/she falls ill, malnourishment worsens. Children entering this malnutrition-infection cycle fall into a potentially fatal spiral as one condition feeds off the other.
Gharam, 3 months, is getting better as she has been receiving treatment for acute malnutrition at Sanaa’s Sabaeen Hospital. Her father jokingly calls her Gharama, Arabic for a hefty fine, as her weak health had been draining his small income. Poorer and food insecure households generally devote a significantly larger percentage of their income on food.