Both Obesity And Under-Nutrition Affect Long-Term Refugee Populations
The authors, led by Carlos Grijalva-Eternod and Andrew Seal from the UCL Institute of Child Health in London, surveyed 2005 households in this refugee population who have been living in four refugee camps since 1975 and measured and weighed 1,608 young children and 1,781 women. They found that obesity and overweight in women affected more households than acute malnutrition, stunting and underweight in children: 9.1% children had acute malnutrition, 29.1% were stunted, 8.6% were underweight and 2.4% were overweight, while among the women, 14.8% were stunted, 53.7% were overweight, and 71.4% had central obesity.
Overall, the authors classified a third of households as being overweight, a quarter as undernourished, and a quarter as affected by the double burden of obesity and malnutrition.
These results are important: 15.4 million refugees (based on 2010 figures) are dependent on host governments and international humanitarian agencies for their food, so it is essential that these governments and organizations provide appropriate food assistance programs to refugees, especially long-term refugees.
The authors say: "The results raise crucial and challenging issues for the design of refugee assistance programmes, and the future provision of care for obesity-associated co-morbidities among Sahrawi refugees and other similar populations."
They continue: "Careful policy and advocacy work will be required to convey the complexity of the situation, and to ensure that continued support for life-saving food assistance programmes and the tackling of under-nutrition and nutritional deficiencies is not jeopardised as the threat of obesity to refugee health receives the attention it deserves."