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Mar 2, 2020

Recovering from Malnutrition: Waheeda's Story

Waheeda after one month of treatment.
Waheeda after one month of treatment.
Two-year-old Waheeda nervously perches on a small white chair at Relief International’s health facility in northern Yemen. She is small for her age. Like so many children in Yemen, Waheeda has lost weight at a rapid pace.
While Yemen is no longer on the brink of famine, hunger still stalks millions of people across the country, with its effects felt strongest by children. The country’s civil war, which escalated in 2015, has caused an estimated 24 million people – 80% of the country’s total population – to rely on humanitarian assistance. The World Food Programme estimates that approximately 16 million Yemini people wake up hungry, and that without humanitarian aid that number could easily reach 20 million people.
Many families are unable to provide regular meals for their children. Instead, skipping meals to conserve limited food rations has become a common, yet heartbreaking, reality for millions of Yemenis.
Like so many others in Yemen, Waheeda’s family does not know where their next meal will come from. Her father’s recent leg injury has prevented him from working as a driver to support his household. Now, the family barely survives on a daily diet of tea and bread, sometimes just once a day.
When an uncle from a neighboring village visited the family, he noticed that young Waheeda’s health was deteriorating. Fortunately, he had heard of a health facility supported by Relief International, providing critical malnutrition services for children, free-of-charge.
Together, Waheeda’s father and uncle made the five-mile trek on foot to reach Relief International’s health facility in Amran. Given her father’s leg injury, Waheeda’s uncle carried her there and back.
Our team diagnosed a weak Waheeda with Acute Malnutrition after conducting a series of standard exams. We enrolled her in our recovery program and Waheeda’s father agreed to return to the health clinic for follow-up treatments. However, given the long journey and his injured leg, he was unable to return the following week. Instead, our team began to visit Waheeda’s home every week for the next month to ensure she received the treatment she needed. One month later, Waheeda showed significant signs of improvement and no longer appeared sickly or malnourished.
We could not do this important, life-saving work without your generous support. It provides families like Waheeda’s with the services they need to survive this conflict. We thank you – and so do the people we serve.
Dec 4, 2019

Recovering from Malnutrition: Marwa's Story

Marwa during a follow-up appointment.
Marwa during a follow-up appointment.

At only nine months old, Marwa’s life was in grave danger. Her mother, increasingly worried about Marwa’s sudden weight loss, took her for an appointment at one of Relief International’s health units located in their home district of Sana’a.

When our team met Marwa in July, she weighed just 11 pounds – well below the average weight for a healthy nine-month-old. Our teams conducted routine tests, including measuring Marwa’s mid-upper arm circumference to determine her nutritional status, before diagnosing her with severe acute malnutrition. They determined that she also suffered from anemia and wasting, both of which contributed to her rapid weight loss.

Our teams immediately enrolled Marwa in our outpatient program where she received weekly treatments and follow-up visits to monitor her weight gain progress. We also provided her mother with information on good sources of nutrition to help improve the family’s overall diet. In addition, we sent Marwa home with Plumpy Sup, a nutritional supplement that scientists have found to be an effective way to treat severe acute malnutrition in young children. Over the course of this treatment, Marwa proved resilient. She gained more than four pounds in two months, putting her out of danger.

Unfortunately, stories like Marwa’s have become all too common in Yemen. Millions of children like her suffer the crippling effects of malnutrition every day, including irreversible stunted growth, weakened immune systems, and impaired cognitive functions. Many will experience severe health issues for the rest of their lives.

We could not do this important, life-saving work without your generous support. It provides families like Marwa’s with the services they need to survive this conflict. Your support also helps plan for the future by investing in the recovery of the country’s health system, ensuring that Yemeni families can recover from these unimaginable hardships with the safety and dignity they deserve.

Sep 3, 2019

A Child's Journey Out Of Malnutrition

Relief International staff check for malnutrition.
Relief International staff check for malnutrition.

Since fighting broke out in Yemen more than five years ago, the country’s capital city of Sana’a has witnessed the collapse of its economy, health system, and most major public services. This has left many people unable to access life-saving treatment when they are ill or injured.

The devaluation of the Yemeni riyal has also increased the cost of transportation to and from the country’s few operational health outposts, causing some to delay seeking treatment until their symptoms become unbearable or until they can save enough money to make the trip.

“Since the start of the war, we’ve noticed a dramatic increase in the number of malnutrition cases we treat at our clinics. While there were some cases of acute hunger in Yemen before the war, now ten million people are living just one step away from famine,” shares Relief International’s Country Director for Yemen Mutasim Hamdam.

Relief International began deploying mobile medical clinics in 2016 when malnutrition amongst children in Yemen was at an all-time high. Despite the long, arduous journey to reach these communities, mobile clinics offer a lifeline for people cut off from health services.

On one visit to a small village on the outskirts of Sana’a, we met Hakeem* and his young daughter, Mina*, 1, tucked tightly in his arms. “She’s been sick for a week and lost a lot of weight,” explained Hakeem. He nervously paced behind the grey Toyota four wheeler – one of Relief International’s mobile clinics – as our medical staff took Mina’s height, weight, and measured her Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC). Her MUAC score, the traditional indicator for nutritional status, fell well into the range for acute malnutrition.

Our medical teams immediately prescribed Mina a once-daily nutritional supplement called Plumpy’Nut, a peanut-based paste used to reverse the effects of malnutrition, particularly in humanitarian crises. Our teams closely monitored Mina’s weight, tracking her progress every two weeks on subsequent trips to her village. On her third visit, she had gained enough weight to rest safely out of acute malnutrition’s reach.

While Mina has regained the weight she lost, millions of children in Yemen continue to suffer from malnutrition to the point where they become permanently impaired or, in many cases, die. A recent United Nations report estimates that at least 7,300 children have been killed or seriously injured by the country’s war, while another 360,000 are suffering from severe acute malnutrition – the most extreme form of hunger. Half of all children in Yemen under the age of five have irreversible stunted growth, impairing their cognitive functions and weakening their immune systems. They will experience severe health issues for the rest of their lives.

“For the fifth year in a row, the situation in Yemen has only worsened,” shares Mutasim. “The conflict has pushed the country to the brink of social, economic, and institutional collapse. The people of Yemen cannot afford another year of war.”

*Names changed for protection.

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