Some 30 percent of children aged 2-5 severely stunted - report

An international report has said child malnutrition remains a concern in Yemen as nearly one-third of children aged 2-5 are severely stunted.

Entitled Yemen Poverty Assessment, the report was released in Yemen on 3 December. Prepared by Yemen’s government, the World Bank, and UN Development Programme (UNDP), it said poverty was associated with the prevalence of severe stunting and underweight among Yemeni children. It said data on severe stunting showed a greater disparity between urban and rural children than other types of malnutrition.

Ali al-Mudhwahi, director of the family health department at the Ministry of Health, told IRIN the stunting rate stood at 53.1 percent, wasting at 12.5 percent, and underweight accounted for 45.6 percent. These three indicators, he said, were used for measuring the malnutrition status for children under five. “There are 4.1 million children under five in Yemen,” he said.

According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), child malnutrition rates in Yemen are amongst the highest in the world, with infant and under-five mortality rates estimated at 76 and 102 per 1,000 live births, respectively.


Photo: Mohammed al-Jabri/IRIN
Ali al-Mudhwahi, director of the family health department at the Ministry of Health

Qat

The organisation says expenditure on qat [the mild narcotic widely consumed in the country] is largely at the expense of food consumption and qat has an adverse effect on the ability of the body to absorb nutrients.

Al-Mudhwahi said his department has made efforts to reduce the problem of malnutrition in the country through a number of initiatives. “We select volunteers from the community who visit families in rural areas and assess the nutrition conditions of children and mothers according to certain criteria (like weight and growth). Volunteers can then refer malnourished children and mothers to health facilities. This is applied in 20 districts in six governorates. We are trying to expand this activity into other governorates,” he said.

Training

The official said another initiative - the Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses (IMCI) - employs an integrated approach to child health that focuses on the holistic well-being of the child. “This training programme targets health workers. The initiative which is deployed in 105 districts in 18 governorates aims to improve health workers' skills in dealing with children,” he said.

In April 2007 WFP offered Yemen’s Ministry of Health support for malnourished women and children from 2007 to 2011. This food aid is distributed through health centres in rural areas to 24,130 beneficiaries annually, the WFP said, adding a small component of this activity included food aid to tuberculosis and leprosy patients who are undergoing treatment.

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