Therapeutic feeding ward, Yemeni Swedish Hospital, Taiz. Photo: UNICEF/Pirozzi

The United Nations Children?s Fund (UNICEF) today said that fighting malnutrition in Yemen should be a top priority in the Middle Eastern country, where more than half the children under the age of five are stunted due to hunger and poor nutrition.

?There is an urgent need for immediate action to aid the 13 million children who make up more than half of the population,? UNICEF?s Representative in Yemen, Geert Cappelaere, said in a statement following the ?Friends of Yemen? donors? conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday where $4 billion in aid for Yemen was pledged.

Almost one million, or 58 per cent, of the Yemen?s children under the age of five are acutely malnourished, and malnutrition is the single most important underlying cause of child mortality, according to UNICEF, which added that the country?s dire humanitarian situation is the result of both chronic underdevelopment and conflict.

More than five million boys and girls do not have access to adequate drinking water and sanitation, while an estimated 2.5 million children are estimated to be out of school, with girls missing out on education the most. Almost every child in Yemen has been affected by widespread violence.

?The international community has to work with the Government of Yemen to make the right choices in its Transition Plan 2012-2014,? said Mr. Cappelaere. ?The leading priority must be the fight against malnutrition, especially as we head into the hunger and diarrhoea season in June.?

UNICEF emphasized that the fight against malnutrition in Yemen requires urgent large-scale investment in almost all sectors to improve people?s access to food, drinking water, sanitation, hygiene education, social protection, livelihood and quality health services.

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