Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams in northern Yemen generally see more children with cases of severe malnutrition at this time of year, but conditions are much worse this time around. At Abs hospital, cases are up 41 percent from a comparable six-month period last year. Most of those receiving treatment at the inpatient therapeutic feeding center are under five years old. Here, Muriel Boursier, MSF head of mission in Yemen, explains that while there are many factors behind this crisis, most are connected to the brutal conflict that erupted in March 2015.
Hamdi is not yet two years old, but this is already his second time as a patient at MSF’s Abs hospital, in northern Yemen. The first time he was five months old. Now, just over a year later, he is suffering from severe malnutrition with pneumonia. His eyelids are swollen, he has a constant cough, and he has a hard time breathing. His family has lived in a country at war for the past six years, while he has known war for his entire life.
Hamdi is one of more than a hundred children that MSF has treated at the Abs inpatient therapeutic feeding center since the beginning of the year. Most of them are under five years old, and all are suffering from severe malnutrition. We always see a spike in cases in the hospital around this time of year, but these days it’s worse: cases are up 41 percent from the same six-month period as last year. It hurts to look at the children admitted to the 50-bed ward of this remote town.
There are many reasons why we are seeing malnourished children in Abs, but most of them are connected to the brutal, six-year-long conflict that has plagued Yemen since 2015. The war has decimated the economy, destroying livelihoods. People can no longer afford food to feed their families or fuel to travel to seek work or medical care. Many public sector staff—including medical workers—haven’t been paid in years. Prices are constantly rising: without humanitarian aid, many families would not eat at all.
The vast majority of the Yemeni population relies on humanitarian aid for survival. In spite of this clear need, it is a constant challenge for humanitarian organizations to reach the most vulnerable [communities]. The humanitarian response for Yemen lacks continuity, is insufficient, and underfunded.