Ravaged by conflict, Yemen’s coast faces rising malnutrition

September 16, 2016 | By | Reply More

Sep 16, – Even before the war, Hodeidah was one of the poorest cities in Yemen, the Arab world’s most impoverished nation. Now, the destruction of the port city’s fishing boats and infrastructure by the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes over the past 18 months of war has deprived the townspeople of their prime livelihood.

ravaged-by-conflict-yemens-coast-faces-rising-malnutritionSitting by her son’s hospital bed, Houdaid Masbah looks at her 5-year-old boy’s skeletal body and sunken cheeks, helplessness engulfing her like a thick cloud — a desperation she shares with many other mothers in Hodeidah.

The U.N. estimates that about 100,000 children under the age of five in the city and the surrounding province, also called Hodeidah, are at risk of severe malnutrition.

Life became harder for the people in this Red Sea city after March 2015, when the coalition of nine Arab Sunni countries began bombing Yemen’s Shiite Houthi rebels to help the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi return to power. The Houthis had pushed Hadi into self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia and captured large chunks of the country, including the capital, Sanaa.

The coalition suspected the Houthis were using Hodeidah fishermen to smuggle weapons across the sea from Iran. The airstrikes destroyed most of the wooden boats along with fish storage facilities, markets, roads and bridges — leaving the fishermen jobless and fearful after seeing some of their colleagues were killed in the strikes.

As Yemen’s conflict dragged on, food prices soared and gasoline ran out.

At Hodeidah’s central hospital, the 12-bed unit for children with severe malnutrition has been fully occupied for months. Children reduced to skin and bone cry tearlessly as their mothers watch by their bedsides, unable to help.

Masbah, the mother of 5-year-old Salem Ali Salem, says her boy remembers only hunger.

“From the day I gave birth to him … till now, we are suffering,” said the mother of eight. “He got better for a short period of time and then he relapsed.”

Salem’s father is a fisherman and the family lives in Baqea, a village nearly an hour’s drive from Hodeidah. That’s where Ibrahim al-Kaali, a social worker, first saw him and helped bring him to the hospital in early September.

“When I first carried him, I was afraid of crushing his bones under the weight of my hands,” said al-Kaali. Salem’s family is just one of about 600 impoverished and desperate families in villages along Hodeidah’s western coastline, he added.

Before the war, a fisherman could support his family on about 700 rials a day (about 2 dollars), feeding them fish, bread and rice. But with no fish and no money, the villagers’ meals were mostly reduced to bread and tea for breakfast and a plate of rice for lunch, said al-Kaali.

“We have 20 Salems, this (situation) is prevalent all over Hodeidah,” Ossan al-Abbsi, a pediatrician at the hospital, told The Associated Press, speaking over the phone like others interviewed for this story.

“There is an accelerating increase in the number of children suffering malnutrition,” he said. “We used to have five cases while the rest of the beds were empty on any given day. Now, you can never find an empty bed in our unit.”

Al-Abbsi says that even after the children improved enough to be discharged from hospital, their condition often deteriorated rapidly as their family struggled once more to feed them.

International agencies have classified Hodeidah among nine of Yemen’s 22 provinces that are a step away from famine. A U.N. report in June said that in Yemen, “the highest malnutrition prevalence” is in Hodeidah.

More than 10,000 people have been killed or wounded in Yemen’s war so far, and 2.8 million have been displaced. The land-and-sea blockade imposed by the coalition and the Houthis’ ground offensives have contributed to the deteriorating situation. U.N.-mediated peace talks in Kuwait were suspended last month, with no signs of progress.

Press journalist for HRO media – Khizer Hayat reports.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Featured

Leave a Reply