750 000 Yemeni children malnourished

2012-01-24 19:27

Sana'a - A year of Yemen's turmoil has exacerbated the number of malnourished children under the age of five to around 750 000, Unicef said on Tuesday, appealing to the government and the international community to help develop the country's infrastructure to tackle the problem.

In some parts of this country of 20 million people, the number of children suffering from malnutrition has doubled from what it was in 2000, said Maria Calivis, the Unicef director for Middle East and North Africa.

Calivis told The Associated Press the figure crosses the "emergency threshold," an international standard calling for urgent action.

"The number itself says it's a crisis," Calivis said. "The crisis can be an invisible one because it is (mostly) outside, in remote areas."

Calivis met with the country's new prime minister and Cabinet officials who she said were "not only surprised but shocked" by the figure.

Yemen has for years experienced localized insurgencies, and the number of displaced people has increased during the year-long uprising against authoritarian President Ali Abdullah Saleh, inspired by other Arab Spring revolts.

According to Unicef , 60 percent of internal refugees or, around 300,000, are Yemeni children.

Before the uprising against Saleh, Yemen was already the most impoverished country in the Arab world.

54 schools occupied

Unicef  said that in the capital of Sana'a alone, 82 schools were attacked by armed forces or groups since the beginning of protests early last year.

Yemen's Education Ministry said at least 54 schools had been occupied by military forces and militias from both the pro and anti-Saleh camps during the height of clashes.

Daily protests demanding Saleh's ousting and mounting international pressure eventually forced the president to sign a deal to pass power to his vice president.

Saleh flew to Oman late on Sunday in the first stop of a trip that is to eventually take him to the US for medical treatment, some two months after signing the power transfer accord. He was badly burned during a June attack on his compound in Yemen.

Al-Qaida's branch in Yemen has taken advantage of the political instability of the past year to increase its foothold throughout parts of the country, particularly in the south.

The militant takeover of main towns in Abyan province forced over 100 000 people to flee the violence.

Despite the political and security upheaval, Calivis said children must remain a priority for the new government.

"There are obviously many competing priorities and there will be always be in the future competing priorities, but ours is an appeal that protecting your children will also ensure security, peace and economic recovery in the long run," she said.

Separately from the violence gripping Yemen, malnutrition resulting from waterborne diseases, unsanitary conditions and little access to vitamin-rich food has put 500 000 more children in danger of dying or suffering from physical disabilities due to malnutrition.

Unicef  has vowed to spend $140m in the next four years in Yemen, but Calivis said it is "a drop in the bucket when you look at the needs".

"Unicef plays an important part, but it needs government commitment and international commitment in order to make a difference," she said.

Read more on:    unicef  |  yemen  |  malnutrition  |  yemen protests

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.