Yemen conflict drives malnutrition to edge of collapse, WHO calls for funding
25 Apr 2023 --- The World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations (UN) stress Yemen’s acute malnutrition concerns, stating that 540,000 children and a total of 12.9 million Yemenis are at a “direct risk of death.” Domestically, 46% of health facilities are out of service or only partially functioning as a result of staff, electricity and medicine shortages.
According to the WHO, the Yemen humanitarian health cluster has received only 16% of the funds needed – US$62 million out of US$392 million.
“WHO has almost no funds available to prepare for Yemen’s annual flood season that is starting now and will bring a predictably major upsurge in vector-borne and water-borne disease outbreaks,” comments Annette Heinzelmann, emergency coordinator at the WHO.
She adds that, due to the lack of funds, the organization is being forced to reduce its support of therapeutic feeding centers nationwide, leading to “countless more infant and child deaths from starvation.”
“Nevertheless, the country’s fragile health system is severely overburdened and edging closer to collapse,” she adds.
The forgotten humanitarian crisis
In response to the crisis in Yemen, Heinzelmann details ten areas of priority to address the issue. One focus is maintaining water, sanitation and hygiene services (WASH) to prevent infections and disease outbreaks.
WASH is threatened by armed conflict, as it further escalates the situation, worsening children’s access to clean water and sanitation.Recently, UNICEF released a report on how
“In closing, I must emphasize the consequences of Yemen becoming a forgotten humanitarian crisis,” Heinzelmann stresses.
“The Yemeni people are resilient but suffering greatly. More than two of every three Yemenis depend on food, medical and other humanitarian assistance. The international community must scale up support to Yemen to avert untold human suffering and deaths in coming months.”
Heinzelmann says that the WHO also ensured life-saving care for 60,200 Yemeni children suffering from severe acute malnutrition with medical complications.
The World Bank recently released a report on how inflation in the Middle East and North Africa is causing slower economic growth and increasing food insecurity and mentioned Yemen as a hunger hotspot – as acute food insecurity is likely to deteriorate further.
Talking of peace
The humanitarian crisis has been described as the “worst since World War Two.” Recently, peace negotiations between Saudi Arabia and the Houthi rebels have started, and the swapping of prisoners has begun on both sides and is expected to continue.
“Recent political talks have raised new hopes that lasting peace might finally be achievable in Yemen. Nevertheless, the country’s fragile health system is severely overburdened and edging closer to collapse, while international donor funding is insufficient to avert further deterioration of the country’s failing health services.”
The WHO details that after nine years of conflict in Yemen, 21.6 out of 31.5 million people need humanitarian and protection services. The organization’s needed funding in 2023 is estimated to be US$130 million, says Heinzelmann.
The war in Ukraine also escalates starvation and famine in Yemen.
“We are simply running out of ways to emphasize how urgent the situation is. More than 20 million people in Yemen need humanitarian assistance, and it is absolutely critical that more funding comes through, otherwise, people will die, that is a certainty,” Aaron Brent, Care Yemen country director, previously told NutritionInsight.
By Beatrice Wihlander
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