Illness widespread among displaced children in Sa’ada [Archives:2008/1213/Local News]

December 4 2008

By: Mahmoud Assamiee
SANA'A, Dec. 28 ) The children of internally displaced persons living in the war-torn governorate of Sa'ada suffer from diarrhea, acute respiratory infection and malnutrition, according to a recent study carried out by the Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW) in cooperation with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) last June.

The results indicate that 37 percent of internally displaced children under five years-old suffer from diarrhea due to polluted waters and that 35.6 percent suffer acute respiratory infection.

The research, which was carried out by Professor Yahya Raja'a and Dr. Isameldin El-Hussein showed that 4.4 percent children suffer from severe acute malnutrition and 15.5 percent suffered moderate acute malnutrition.

The study, which covered four districts -Al-Anad, Al-Zaher, Sahar and Sa'ada- in the Sa'ada governorate and targeted 1,283 children from displaced families living in camps, assessed the health and level of nutrition of internally displaced mothers and children under five years-old in Sa'ada.

It covered 825 women aged between 15 and 55 years old, 367 of whom were living in houses and 458 were living in tents provided by International Red Crescent Committee. Almost all of the women were married, with only 4.2 percent of them widowed and 2.5 percent divorced. The family size ranged from 2 to 20 individuals, with an average of 6 members, and up to 4 children were reportedly housed in each tent.

Up to 30.7 percent of breastfeeding and pregnant women were found to be suffering from acute malnutrition, with wasting more prevalent among them than their children. Raja'a attributed this difference of ratio to mothers preferring to feed their children before themselves. Of the 238 mothers with a baby under one year of age, a little over a half of them reported that they had started breastfeeding immediately after delivery. A further 18.2 percent of those interviewed were pregnant.

The report did not set out to report on violations against women, but Dr. Raja'a said that many of the women interviewed were still very young and that measures should be taken to protect them. “We should not allow anything to happen,” he declared.

Although malnutrition among internally displaced persons in Sa'ada is high, Raja'a maintained that Sa'ada governorate is still wealthier than other governorates in the country due to its agricultural activities, as it has more farms and the lower intensity of the population, so malnutrition should be less severe than in the rest of the country.The study made several recommendations, including protecting women against violence, supporting the camp of Al-Anad camp where of the internally displaced persons are living, strengthening health services and facilities in these districts, continuing nutrition services and providing purified water to the camps.

Director of CSSW Mohammad al-Qubati said that support to displaced people in Sa'ada would continue from UNICEF distributed via the CSSW in truckloads of assistances to Sa'ada inhabitants. UNICEF's Nutrition Program Officer Dhekra Annuzeili revealed that the organization's support to displaced people would continue via the Community Nutrition Theoretic Care Program, which provides its services to the area through CSSW. The program provides health training to health practitioners distributes nearly 23 types of medicine and conducts follow-up on malnutrition cases in the area.