"How can Yemen scale-up the national nutritional interventions to improve the minimum acceptable diet for children under 5 to ensure early childhood development for children under 5 by 2030?"

Active consideration of early childhood development within Yemen both during and (aspirationally) post-conflict is gaining more traction. In Yemen, the health status of children under five is deeply concerning. Nearly 2.3 million children under the age of five in the country are suffering from acute malnutrition in 2021, rising to 2.7 million children by the end of 20222. Of these, 400,000 are estimated to suffer from severe acute malnutrition3. It is estimated that the incidence of childhood disabilities and foetal malformations has increased in Yemen since the start of the civil war - due to the chemical residues of explosives and missiles, as well as the traumatic situations experienced by mothers in general. The WHO estimates that 44% of children 0-59 months are underweight and 47% of children 6 to 59 months are experiencing stunting. The prevalence of anaemia among children aged 6 to 59 months is 86%. As a result, international organisations estimate that 4.7 million children under the age of
five need micronutrient supplementation.

The political situation in Yemen is uncertain and fluid. Regardless of, or even because of, the difficult circumstances within which the children of Yemen are born, early childhood development (ECD) interventions are even more critical considering that the future of Yemen depends on the wellbeing of today’s children. Yemen, therefore, needs to plan differentiated strategies to ensure that, regardless of the outcome of the current conflict, a healthy population - starting with improved nutritional status of children under five - is part of the country’s future. It is widely known that need for sufficient nutrition starts in the earlier months of life, and its importance in influencing health and growth for the throughout life never stops. It is also known that after six months of age, breast milk is no longer adequate to meet the nutritional needs of the infant and additional foods are needed. Over time, the transition from exclusive breastfeeding to family foods is critical to ensuring a child thrives during early childhood. 

In response to the acute malnutrition in Yemen at the first Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summit was convened in 2013, 110 stakeholders came together for Yemen and committed to preventing at least 20 million children from being stunted – saving at least 1.7 million lives by 2020. In 2013 the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN)-Yemen Secretariat was established in Yemen to adopt a multi-sectoral approach to delivering nutrition services and addressing the direct and underlying causes of malnutrition. These commitments - some of which are discussed below, including the SUN-Yemen initiative, continue to provide a coordinated response to bring together nutritional interventions between different stakeholders in the extremely difficult context of operating in a civil war - despite competing agendas, political challenges and security concerns.

Unfortunately, despite all the efforts, the Yemen government's primary data on access to minimum acceptable diet (MAD) has not been systematically collected and tracked over time in Yemen in relation to the early childhood development (ECD)14 While the humanitarian appeal focuses on saving lives of the children under 5 who are suffering from severe acute malnutrition and urgently need life-saving food to survive15, proactive and developmental policy focus needs to consider the linkage between early childhood development and minimum acceptable diet to have a thriving citizen in the future. As such the question is:

"How can Yemen scale-up the national nutritional interventions to improve the minimum acceptable diet for children under 5 to ensure early childhood development for children under 5 by 2030?"

Anchor Agency:  Ministry of Planning & International Cooperation, Yemen

Beneficiary Agency: Ministry of Planning & International Cooperation, Yemen

Participating Agencies: 

  • WFP-Yemen
  • UNICEF- Yemen
  •  UNDP-Yemen
  •  DFID/FCO- Yemen
  •  USAID-Yemen,
  • UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)- Yemen
  •  Local NGO from South
  •  Local NGO from North, Yemen Central Bank Debt Management officer
  • Trade-Hub International
  • Food Security and Agriculture Cluster (FSAC) Food
  • Social fund for development, UN established Group of Eminent Experts (GEE)
  •  Yemeni Early Childhood Development Expert
  •  Yemeni Nursery Childcare (WHO, Yemen)