UNICEF today urged that fighting malnutrition in Yemen should be an absolute priority following a Friends of Yemen meeting in Riyadh that recognized the dire humanitarian situation and made US$4 billion in pledges to address the crisis.
“There is an urgent need for immediate action to aid the 13 million children who make up more than half of the population, said UNICEF Representative Geert Cappelaere.
With 58 per cent of children under the age of five stunted, Yemen has the second highest rate of stunting in the world. Almost 1 million children under the age of five are acutely malnourished. Malnutrition is the single most important underlying cause of child mortality.
More than 5 million boys and girls do not have access to adequate drinking water and sanitation. More than 2.5 million children are estimated to be out of school with girls missing out on education the most. Almost every child has been affected by widespread violence.
The extremely poor humanitarian situation in Yemen is a result of both chronic underdevelopment and the violence last year. UNICEF commended those countries that made pledges at the Friends of Yemen meeting on Wednesday to help end suffering.
“The international community has to work with the Government of Yemen to make the right choices in its Transition Plan 2012-2014. The leading priority must be the fight against malnutrition, especially as we head into the hunger and diarrhoea season in June,” added Cappelaere.
The violence last year led to an increase in acute malnutrition among children under five in some districts beyond emergency levels. The World Bank estimates a country being blighted by under-nutrition loses as much as three per cent of its Gross Domestic Product.
The fight against malnutrition in Yemen requires urgent large-scale investments in almost all sectors to improve people’s access to food, drinking water, sanitation, hygiene education, social protection, livelihoods and quality health services.