Maha: A Child’s Journey Out of Malnutrition

Maha was losing weight. She was just a year old and her parents were worried. They carried their daughter from their village outside Sana’a city to one of Relief International’s mobile medical teams.

Yemen has more than two million children like Maha, children so acutely malnourished that they become permanently impaired or, in many cases, die. Years of conflict have pushed the country to the brink of social, economic and institutional collapse, increasing food insecurity. Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is among the world’s most severe. According to UN figures, a child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen from preventable causes.

Those who live face unspeakable challenges. Millions suffer from weakened immune systems as a result of acute malnutrition, making them more susceptible to diseases such as cholera. Many of these children also experience irreversible cognitive impairment and stunted growth. In some parts of Yemen, nearly 80 percent of the children suffer from stunting.

Relief International partners with the World Food Program (WFP) to restore the health of these malnourished children as well as women who are pregnant or lactating. Relief International operates 15 mobile medical teams and eight fixed health facilities in the northwest region of Yemen. Covering the governorates of Sana’a, Amran and Hajjah, RI provides nutritional assistance to more than 23,000 people.

Relief International also delivers the tools to sustain their restored health. RI’s Yemen team has engaged 135 community leaders to introduce the program to them and make them comfortable with the process. RI has also trained community members to conduct nutritional awareness sessions in schools, mosques and homes. More than 20,000 people have attended these sessions, learning what causes malnutrition, how to identify malnutrition and how to use our health facilities and mobile medical teams.

These are families like Maha’s. Maha received nutritional supplements on her first visit to RI’s mobile medical teams and her parents received hygiene and nutrition training. She returned two weeks later with new weight to show off. On her third visit, she had gained enough weight to rest safely out of acute malnutrition’s reach.

Maha got well. Her parents got the knowledge to keep her that way.