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Anaemia, iron status and vitamin A deficiency among adolescent refugees in Kenya and Nepal

Bradley A Woodruff, Heidi Michels Blanck, Laurence Slutsker, Susan T Cookson, Mary Kay Larson, Arabella Duffield, Rita Bhatia
Public Health Nutrition 2006, 9 (1): 26-34

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the prevalence of anaemia (haemoglobin<11.0 to 13.0 g dl(-1) depending on age and sex group), iron deficiency (transferrin receptor concentration>8.3 microg ml(-1)) and vitamin A deficiency (serum retinol <0.7 micromol l(-1)) in adolescent refugees.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional surveys.

SETTING: Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya and seven refugee camps in Nepal.

SUBJECTS: Adolescent refugee residents in these camps.

RESULTS: Anaemia was present in 46% (95% confidence interval (CI): 42-51) of adolescents in Kenya and in 24% (95% CI: 20-28) of adolescents in Nepal. The sensitivity of palmar pallor in detecting anaemia was 21%. In addition, 43% (95% CI: 36-50) and 53% (95% CI: 46-61) of adolescents in Kenya and Nepal, respectively, had iron deficiency. In both surveys, anaemia occurred more commonly among adolescents with iron deficiency. Vitamin A deficiency was found in 15% (95% CI: 10-20) of adolescents in Kenya and 30% (95% CI: 24-37) of adolescents in Nepal. Night blindness was not more common in adolescents with vitamin A deficiency than in those without vitamin A deficiency. In Kenya, one of the seven adolescents with Bitot's spots had vitamin A deficiency.

CONCLUSIONS: Anaemia, iron deficiency and vitamin A deficiency are common among adolescents in refugee populations. Such adolescents need to increase intakes of these nutrients; however, the lack of routine access makes programmes targeting adolescents difficult. Adolescent refugees should be considered for assessment along with other at-risk groups in displaced populations.

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