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Yemen: Acute Malnutrition hits record levels in Yemen with a devastating toll on children under five


Over 2.25 million cases of children aged 0 to 59 months, and more than a million cases of pregnant and lactating women, are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition in the course of 2021 in Yemen. Out of the 35 zones included in the IPC Acute Malnutrition (IPC AMN) current analysis, two zones were classified in Critical (IPC AMN Phase 4), 26 in Serious (IPC AMN Phase 3) and the remaining seven zones in Alert (IPC AMN Phase 2) during the period of January – July 2020. The situation was projected to deteriorate further during the period of August – December 2020: the number of zones in IPC AMN Phase 4 was expected to increase to 13. An additional analysis of 22 zones in the north for which data is available shows that, during the period of January – March 2021, seven zones will be in Serious (IPC AMN Phase 3) and the remaining 15 zones will be in Critical (IPC AMN Phase 4). This additional projection analysis was only possible for the north since, according to the IPC protocols, projections can only be carried out up to 12 months from data collection. Download the brief here


  • High prevalence of communicable diseases (with 2 in 5 children suffering from diarrhoea in the north  and 1 in 4 children affected by diarrhoea in the south, while about 60% of children in the north and 25% of children in the south are affected by malaria/fever);
  • Elevated levels of acute food insecurity (with all 22 zones projected to be in IPC Acute Food Insecurity Phase 3 or above in the north and 17 of the 19 zones projected to be in IPC Acute Food Insecurity Phase 3 or above in the south);
  • Poor Infant and Young Child Feeding practices (with only about 40% in the north and about 50% in the south meeting minimum dietary diversity requirements, while exclusive breastfeeding prevalence being less than 35% in the north and less than 25% in the south);
  • Poor access to nutrition and health services (limited access due to conflict in several zones and decline in access and utilization of health and nutrition services as a result of COVID-19);
  • Poor water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services are a major concern in all zones.
  • Additionally, the direct and indirect effect of COVID-19 (e.g. reduction in remittances, reduced access to markets, difficulty maintaining employment, etc.), and economic shocks, such as delayed salary payments and conflict, have a compounding effect on acute malnutrition.

Snapshot of the Food Security and Nutrition Situation in Yemen

Conflict remains the main driver of food insecurity and malnutrition in Yemen, and following a reduced intensity in 2019, hostilities and armed fighting have been flaring up again in 2020 and 2021, causing displacement, further exhaustion of coping capacities and limited access to basic services like health, nutrition and WASH. After over six years of conflict, the economy of the country is about to collapse. The exchange rate of the Yemeni rial to the US dollar in southern parts of the country exhibits historically low values. Further depreciation of the rial to YER 1,000/USD and beyond in southern areas is likely, because of diminished sources and reserves of foreign currency. This leads to accelerated increases in imported food commodity prices, manifest through increased costs of the minimum food basket.
Download the snapshot here:  English    Arabic

Actions Needed

Immediate/short term recommendations and objectives in host and IDP communities

  • Implement Blanket Supplementary Feeding Programmes (BSFP) targeting vulnerable groups (children under two, pregnant and lactating women) for prevention of malnutrition based on solid needs assessment and identified gaps in priority locations;
  • Strengthen Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) program - ensuring optimal coverage of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), SAM with medical complication and Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) treatment, expansion of appropriate treatment services based on solid needs assessment and identified gaps; and strengthening community screening and referrals from community to facility and from Out-patient Therapeutic Programme (OTP) to Therapeutic Feeding Centre (TFC) (support transport and caregiver costs);
  • Strengthen Micronutrient Powder supplementation programme;
  • Strengthen infant and young child feeding (IYCF)  messaging and counselling at Health Facilities and community level;
  • Continue provision of primary health care including vaccination services and referrals of medically complicated cases of acute malnutrition;
  • Scale up efforts for community awareness-building on COVID-19, children health and nutritional need for a healthy growth and engagement with the relevant authority to mitigate the likely impact on food and nutrition security;
  • Strengthening WASH interventions including e.g. water chlorination, distribution of chlorine tablets for water chlorination and hand-washing;
  • Ensure adherence to Infection Prevention and Control procedures during healthcare interaction, provision of nutrition services, assessments and surveys, to protect nutrition/health workers and populations from risks of exposure to COVID-19;
  • Enhance intersectoral coordination between all stakeholders for efficient utilization of resources;
  • Scale-up of health system capacity especially in under-covered zones including areas with IDPs, including the use of mobile clinics for health and nutrition service delivery;
  • Strengthen partnership and engagement with Ministry of Health and other nutrition stakeholders;
  • Plan for timely nutrition assessments including the Nutrition SMART surveys, integrating and mainstreaming key nutrition indicators in multi-sectoral assessments.

Medium to long term recommendations and objectives in host and IDP communities

  • Advocate for enhanced WASH services intervention at health facilities and communities, aiming to improve the infrastructure;
  • Support integrated livelihood and nutrition programming for improved nutrition and food security by providing general food assistances (food, vouchers and cash ) as well as supporting locally feasible livelihood options including support for the fisheries industry in coastal areas, supporting small businesses, promoting kitchen gardening at household and community level and supporting cash programming;
  • Support the Social Behaviour Change for Communication (SBCC) to improve home diets, infant and young child feeding as well as proper use of nutrition products and hygiene promotion;
  • Strengthen nutrition information systems (system for routine nutrition programme data, surveillance system, surveys, and risk monitoring) by ensuring that the system is adapted to the response, provides timely information for decision-making and actions, is based on quality-assured data and analysis and addresses challenges of information-gathering in the context of COVID-19;
  • Strengthen nutrition monitoring systems across inpatient and outpatient care for acute malnutrition and ensure continuum of care for severe and moderate acute malnutrition;
  • Advocate for strengthening disease surveillance and maintain updated preparedness and response plans for health outbreaks and seasonal increase of malnutrition;
  • Promote multi-sectoral engagement and collaboration to ensure coordinated efforts and synergy to address acute malnutrition;
  • Strengthen resilience and shock recovery action to reduce the impact of flooding in low lying areas – e,g. Hajjah Lowlands.

IPC Acute Malnutrition Classification Maps

January - July 2020
August - December 2020
January - March 2021 (North)

IPC Acute Malnutrition Phase Classification

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