The Double Burden of Obesity and Malnutrition in a Protracted Emergency Setting: A Cross-Sectional Study of Western Sahara Refugees

Carlos S. Grijalva-Eternod, Jonathan C.K. Wells, Mario Cortina-Borja, Nuria Salse-Ubach, Mélody C. Tondeur, Carmen Dolan, Chafik Meziani, Caroline Wilkinson, Paul Spiegel, Andrew J. Seal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Households from vulnerable groups experiencing epidemiological transitions are known to be affected concomitantly by under-nutrition and obesity. Yet, it is unknown to what extent this double burden affects refugee populations dependent on food assistance. We assessed the double burden of malnutrition among Western Sahara refugees living in a protracted emergency. Methods and Findings: We implemented a stratified nutrition survey in October-November 2010 in the four Western Sahara refugee camps in Algeria. We sampled 2,005 households, collecting anthropometric measurements (weight, height, and waist circumference) in 1,608 children (6-59 mo) and 1,781 women (15-49 y). We estimated the prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM), stunting, underweight, and overweight in children; and stunting, underweight, overweight, and central obesity in women. To assess the burden of malnutrition within households, households were first classified according to the presence of each type of malnutrition. Households were then classified as undernourished, overweight, or affected by the double burden if they presented members with under-nutrition, overweight, or both, respectively. The prevalence of GAM in children was 9.1%, 29.1% were stunted, 18.6% were underweight, and 2.4% were overweight; among the women, 14.8% were stunted, 53.7% were overweight or obese, and 71.4% had central obesity. Central obesity (47.2%) and overweight (38.8%) in women affected a higher proportion of households than did GAM (7.0%), stunting (19.5%), or underweight (13.3%) in children. Overall, households classified as overweight (31.5%) were most common, followed by undernourished (25.8%), and then double burden-affected (24.7%). Conclusions: The double burden of obesity and under-nutrition is highly prevalent in households among Western Sahara refugees. The results highlight the need to focus more attention on non-communicable diseases in this population and balance obesity prevention and management with interventions to tackle under-nutrition. Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1001320
JournalPLoS medicine
Volume9
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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