The year 2015 marked the highest number of refugees globally and included record numbers of Syrians moving to neighboring countries. Half of the Syrians were children aged ≤18 years. Our study sought to examine undernutrition and overnutrition among a group of Syrian refugee children who underwent medical screening by IOM for resettlement.
This is a retrospective review of Syrian refugee children aged 6 to 59 months from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2016. The World Health Organization (WHO) Stata package computed Z-scores based on available weight and height data. Prevalence estimates of undernutrition (wasting and stunting) and overnutrition (overweight and obesity) were made using WHO standards. Multivariate analysis was used to determine the factors associated with wasting, stunting, and overnutrition, adjusting for age, sex, family size, and country of health assessment.
A total of 14,552 Syrian refugee children aged 6 to 59 months underwent health assessments in Jordan (43·1%), Lebanon (38·8%), Turkey (7·0%), Greece (6·7%), Egypt (2·4%), and Iraq (2·1%). Overall, this group of Syrian refugee children had a low prevalence of wasting (< 5%) and stunting (< 10%), and high prevalence of overweight or obese (10.6%). Differences were observed in the prevalence of wasting by country of health assessment. In the multiple regression analysis, the prevalence of stunting and overnutrition decreased with increasing age, and being male was associated with overnutrition but not wasting and stunting.
Findings revealed an overall low prevalence of undernutrition among this group of Syrian children assessed, although prevalence varied by age group. This low prevalence may reflect the effectiveness, as well as expose possible gaps, of refugee nutrition programs or interventions in countries of asylum. Further studies are recommended to evaluate other possible contributors to malnutrition in this refugee group.