Political unrest deepens plight of Yemen children

Wed Feb 15, 2012 9:20am EST
 
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By Tom Finn and Nour Merza

SANAA/DUBAI (Reuters) - Fatima Al-Aqra's eyes glazed over for a moment as 14-month-old Enas, the scrawny infant at her feet, tugged feebly at the hem of her tattered black veil.

"He does this because he knows food is on the way," said the young mother, coming out of her daze to throw a few granules of sugar into a brown paste of breadcrumbs and hot water.

"This will be his only meal of the day."

Political turmoil has pushed Yemen, already one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, to the brink of a humanitarian crisis to rival the one that ravaged the Horn of Africa last year.

The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, says 57 percent of Yemen's 12 million children are chronically malnourished -- the highest level of chronic malnutrition in the world after Afghanistan.

In 2012, an estimated 750,000 children will face what it describes as acute malnutrition, of whom two-thirds will be at risk of dying or suffering from lifelong physical and cognitive impairment, said UNICEF's Yemen representative Geert Cappelaere.

Nearly a quarter of Yemen's 28 million population -- about seven million people -- are now in dire need of food.

"We can't afford sugar, rice or beans. The last time my children ate chicken was over a year and a half ago," said Amin Mohammed Shirad, a 45-year-old father of eight living in a two-room shack on the dusty outskirts of the capital.   Continued...

 
A woman looks at her malnourished child sleeping inside a ward at Assabiyn hospital in Sanaa February 11, 2012. Political turmoil has pushed Yemen, already one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, to the brink of a humanitarian crisis to rival the one that ravaged the Horn of Africa last year.The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, says 57 percent of Yemen's 12 million children are chronically malnourished -- the highest level of chronic malnutrition in the world after Afghanistan.  REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah