Khabar Khair (Only Good News)
The spiking rate of malnutrition among children – in what’s already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis – reflects the full tenor of Yemen’s conflict. As of June 2020, twenty-five percent of Yemenis, including 2.1 million children and 1.2 million pregnant and lactating women, suffer from malnutrition.
Responding to this urgent and pervasive need, in 2015 the Social Fund for Development (SFD) began implementing a Cash for Nutrition programme that has since been incorporated into the Yemen Emergency Crisis Response Project (YECRP) – a United Nations Development Programme and World Bank partnership project. YECRP works with existing development institutions such as SFD to deliver short and long-term crisis response interventions.
Local women are employed as community health educators. Having at least a high school education, they receive basic training to provide monthly nutrition education sessions and to screen for malnutrition. Despite severe decreases in dietary diversity across Yemen due to the conflict, households that have participated in the programme have increased food purchases by at least 17 per cent and spent the majority of that money on non-staple foods with greater nutritional value, like vegetables, fruits, milk, and eggs. Through these efforts, over 175,000 pregnant and lactating women and nearly 176,000 children have received nutrition education and intervention.
Ola is one of over 5,000 women health educators employed and trained in nutrition and hygiene for children and mothers. “I tell the mothers that with any amount of money you can have good nourishment and a diverse diet. I talk about kidney beans, bread, onions, and food supplements. To date, I have worked with nine pregnant women and 13 children who suffered from malnutrition; they have since fully recovered.”
Amnah is one of the mothers who worked with Ola after her son became sick, only 10 days after his father’s funeral. “Because I was overwhelmed with grief, I couldn’t feed him anything but sorrow. My child was suffering with diarrhea and vomiting. After the vomiting and diarrhea stopped, he lost a lot of weight and had a weak immune system,” Amnah recalls.
Luckily, Ola was already well known within the community and Amnah had some familiarity with the signs of malnutrition. After reaching out to Amnah, Ola took immediate action. Ola visited Amnah at home, assessed her son, and conferred with SFD and her manager.
Amnah explains that “I received enough money to travel with my son to the Bait Al-Taibi health center. Later that day they gave him nourishment and medicine. He was better the next day; this programme saved my child’s life.”
Research from the International Food Policy Research Institute indicates that cash transfer programmes providing homes with financial support to purchase food have succeeded in reducing conflict-driven, acute malnutrition in Yemen.
Since this health scare, Amnah regularly attends Ola’s classes on maternal nutrition and breast feeding, and now knows how to provide a better childhood for her sons and daughters. “I applied what I learned from [Ola] and gave him healthy food and fed him from my breast. I didn’t think Ali would survive.”