A Malnourished Boy’s Picture Shows the World the Realities of War

Apr 02, 2016 02:33 AM EDT | By Mark Jason Alcala

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Malnutrition And Maternal Mortality Rates In Afghanistan Among Highest In World
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - NOVEMBER 15: A one-and-a-half-year-old boy weighing only 4 kilos, and suffering from chronic malnutrition, lies in the Action Contre Le Faim malnutrition ward inside the Indira Ghandi hospital November 15,2002 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Women in the war-shattered country are dying during childbirth at a staggeringly high rate, with an estimated 515,000 women dying annually from pregnancy and childbirth, making it one of the worst places in the world for a woman to become pregnant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that for 100,000 live births, and average of 1,600 maternal deaths occur.
(Photo : Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

A shocking picture caught the world's attention a few days ago and finally presents a graphic reminder on the realities of Yemen's war. The picture shows an extremely malnourished five-month-old boy and paints the hardships and daily struggles Yemenis have to endure due to the ongoing war which started when Saudi Arabia and its allies, with the United States' backing, launched a series of airstrikes in an attempt to oust the Shiite rebels who seized the capital a year ago according to an article by Richard Hartley-Parkinson on the Metro.

The five-month-old boy in the picture, Udai Faisal, probably never tasted peace and the luxury of food on demand that the average American enjoys but take for granted. Udai had the misfortune of being born in the middle of the war that is not his choosing; her mother was in labor right when the Saudi-led coalition sent warplanes to strike an army base occupied by the rebels and near where the family lived. In fact, a shrapnel hit the family's one-bedroom house while Udai's mother screamed while delivering him.

And so began Udai's hard life. Twenty days after his birth, Udai's mother had to stop breastfeeding him because no milk came out anymore - a result of her own malnutrition. Udai fed on milk formula when it is available and the family can afford it. On other days, Udai drank only water and sugar, and sometimes the water wasn't even clean. Water trucks only occasionally reached the area and so the family had to make do with whatever water was available.

Three months into his young life, the boy Udai Faisal developed diarrhea but most local clinics do not have the proper medicine to treat the child and even if they had, Fiasal Ahmed- Udai's father - could not afford them. On March 20, 2016, the boy was rushed to the emergency unit of al-Sabeen Hospital.

According to Emergency Unit head Saddam al-Azizi, Udai suffered from severe malnutrition, chest infection, and diarrhea. At five months old, he weighed only 5.3 lbs. His twig-like arms convulsed, one can see the outline of his skull through his cheeks and he eyes were dry. In fact, he was to dehydrated that there were no tears when he cried.

Two days later, the family decided to take Udai home which Dr. Al-Azizi interprets that it is because they could not afford the necessary treatment. In addition, even if treatment was administered to the boy, Udai had only 30 percent chance of survival according to an article in the Independent.

Sadly, the boy passed away three hours after he was taken out of the hospital and 2 days after that last picture was taken, one of the casualties of the war-induced hunger.

Apparently, Udai was just one of the 1.3 million children with severe malnutrition caused by the airstrikes according to the Independent. Yemen already had one of the highest cases of malnutrition in the world before the airstrikes were started. Now, with the naval blockade and the destruction of the country's infrastructures, entry of food supplies to the country has been affected.

These resulted in the almost doubling of the country's number of people who can't eat without aid up to 7 million from 4.3 million a year ago.

One can't help but question if the Saudi-led coalition's goals justify the cost of acquiring it. Is there a goal so worthy that it had to be paid with innocent lives, including children?

The picture also pushes to public consciousness another problem - food inequality. While food is daily wasted in most countries in the west, there are places on earth that people are dying because there is no access to food. Clearly, this is a problem that could not be solved by one country alone but requires a coordinated effort by the global community.

Sources:

http://metro.co.uk/2016/03/30/days-from-death-because-of-war-the-picture-thats-shocked-the-world-5783641/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/yemen-civil-war-crisis-conflict-udai-faisal-starving-children-malnutrition-saudi-air-strikes-aid-a6958096.html

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