Thousands of severely malnourished children are receiving nutritious supplements in Islamic Relief’s latest emergency project in Yemen, one of the poorest countries on Earth.

Malnutrition in Yemen has reached an alarming level. According to government reports, nearly one third of children are moderately to severely malnourished – more than double the internationally recognised emergency threshold of 15 per cent.

Only Afghanistan has higher levels of chronic malnutrition, with 60 per cent of Yemeni children under five being affected. Over half of Yemen’s children are reportedly stunted, with low height for their age – a sign of long-term malnutrition.

More than 10,600 children in the country’s Hodeida governorate received protein shakes in a distribution that began earlier this month. Targeting children with symptoms of severe, acute malnourishment – such as very low body weight, severe wasting, or swollen feet from water retention – the shakes are regarded by health professionals as an effective way of swiftly improving nutrition.

Islamic Relief gathered 40 nutrition specialists from 18 of the governate’s most vulnerable districts for an orientation workshop. The session showed the professionals how to prepare and distribute the nutritious shakes.

“My son refused breast milk from two months old,” said Balqees Omer, 22. She received supplies of the protein shakes for eight-month old Maher. “After some visits to the medical center and these supplementary protein shakes my son started getting better.

“My son likes the taste of the shakes. Without this protein I would continue making my son take other supplementary medicine, which he does not like. I am now making fewer visits to the medical centre. He has put on weight and is more interested in food.”

Protein is one of the body’s main building blocks for muscle, bone, skin, and other tissues. The powdered protein shakes distributed by Islamic Relief contain essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients.

Islamic Relief has been working in Yemen for a decade, delivering emergency and development projects.