“In several governorates where we are currently running projects, we are seeing an increase in the number of malnourished children attending our facilities, along with medical complications.” The alarm was sounded in an interview with Adnkronos by Konstantinos Psykakos, head of mission in Yemen of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), according to which “the direct and indirect effects of the war” which has been going on in the Arab country for seven years have aggravated the condition of food insecurity of vulnerable people.
Malnutrition is a constant risk for Yemeni children. The country records seasonal and annual peaks, usually linked to the lean season caused by the stop of agricultural production in rural areas. This pattern was already clear before the escalation of the war in late 2014, but has worsened due to the ongoing conflict.
“As the malnutrition peak began early in 2022, the high number of hospitalizations overwhelmed our facilities and required emergency interventions in some locations in an attempt to manage the increase in cases of acute malnutrition and related complications health care”, underlines Psykakos, who then highlights the main problems that MSF is facing on the ground.
Starting from the “lack of access to basic health care for some patients who have to make a long journey to reach our facilities either because they don’t have health centers in their areas or because the centers are not fully functional – specifies the head of mission – For example, in Al Salam hospital in Amran governorate we receive patients who come from other governorates such as Hajja and Al Jawf which are almost 5-7 hours away by car”.
But malnutrition is not just about food insecurity. This problem is rapidly increasing throughout Yemen as many families cannot afford enough food due to the growing economic crisis, which has caused prices to soar. In addition, the country’s health network continues to collapse, many people have lost their homes due to the war, have no access to drinking water or paid work. A revealing aspect is the fact that parents do not know the initial symptoms of malnutrition and this delays the detection of the disease. Finally, many funds have been cut, with consequences for health facilities and food assistance programs.
This last point is highlighted by Psykakos. “The most vulnerable people face daily difficulties and challenges in accessing the routine medical care, medicines and vaccines needed for children, especially under five, and there is still a huge need for all partners and actors working in Yemen scale up their humanitarian response,” he concludes.