Yemen’s high malnutrition rates have drawn global attention, highlighting the impact the country’s five-and-half-year civil war has had on its population. About 20 million Yemenis—70% of the population—are facing hunger, a 13% increase from 2017.
Yemen is one of the most food insecure countries in the world. Long before the conflict began, child malnutrition was widespread. In 2013, 46.5% of children under five were stunted, or short and underweight for their age; 16.3% suffered from acute malnutrition.
By February 2019, an estimated 2 million children—about 50% of the children under the age of five—were suffering from acute malnutrition; 350,000 were severely malnourished.
Afaf is familiar with these statistics on a deeply personal level. Her baby girl died of malnutrition after living on a diet of milk and rice for months. “I couldn't afford to give her food. She died, and I didn't know from what.”
Cash for Nutrition Programme
In 2015, the Yemen Social Fund for Development (SFD) worked on a Cash for Nutrition program that has since been folded into the Emergency Crisis Response Project. Targeting pregnant women and women with children under the age of five, this project gives them money to buy food and teaches them about child nutrition. It has been able to reach more than 165,000 pregnant or lactating women and 175,000 children so far.
Although Yemenis have seen a steep drop in variety in their diet during the conflict, studies show that households supported by the project bought at least 17% more food with the cash they were given and spent most of it on foods with more nutritional value than staple grains, like vegetables, fruits, milk, and eggs.
Describing the impact the project has had on her life, Afaf said: “It began when I was pregnant with my second child, and I took a vow that my new baby would arrive safe and healthy.”