Yemen: Tens of thousands of severely malnourished children are left without treatment since March

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Tens of thousands of children in Yemen are missing out on life-saving treatment for severe malnutrition due to funding shortfalls, Save the Children says.

The charity’s analysis of Yemen Health Cluster data found services to nurse children back from the brink of starvation have plummeted by 74% since March.

A monthly average of just 9,500 children under the age of five were admitted for “severe acute malnutrition with complications” for treatment – children likely to die without immediate care – after funds began to dry up in April. That compares to 37,000 children in the first quarter of the year.

At those rates, 27,500 children every month are expected now missing out on the vital treatment needed to keep them alive.

Aid agencies have been struggling to raise funds for health services in Yemen – just 18% of the support needed for the humanitarian response this year has been found so far.

Many of the supplies and staff that now remain on the ground have also been diverted to tackle outbreaks of COVID-19 and cholera. [3]

Severe acute malnutrition, the most extreme form of hunger, is a life-threatening condition requiring urgent treatment. It also significantly weakens children’s immune systems, which often means any additional medical complications or infections prove deadly.

Xavier Joubert, Country Director for Save the Children in Yemen, said:

“Parents are turning up with their children at health facilities only to find there aren’t enough supplies to help everyone. And there are shortages of crucial protective equipment so doctors and other staff often can’t treat them anyway. In some of the clinics where we’ve had to scale back nutrition services, it’s getting truly horrific. The world is simply abandoning children to die.”

Vaccine programs for children under the age of one are also affected, raising concerns for longer-term child health. 20,788 fewer babies are now being vaccinated every month compared to the first quarter of the year, a 48% decrease, according to Health Cluster data. [4]

Save the Children’s own program have been even more severely affected. The charity was able to vaccinate just 3,834 children against preventable diseases across its 240 health facilities in May 2020, compared to 13,685 in the same month last year. That represents a 72% drop.

As a result of funding shortfalls, the UN has warned the number of malnourished children under the age of five could rise to 2.4 million by the end of the year.

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