Background. The Palestinian economy has dramatically deteriorated at all levels since the Al-Aqsa Intifada (uprising) began in 2000, resulting in an unprecedented catastrophe to the livelihoods of the Palestinians residing in the West Bank and Gaza. It was also marked by lack of household physical and financial access to food and health care, which placed children at increased risk of malnutrition and poor health. This prompted a significant increase in food aid from 2002 until the summer of 2003. Objectives. To assess the nutritional status of children 6 to 59 months of age after 1 year of food assistance. Methods. In the West Bank and Gaza, a nationally representative sample of children 6 to 59 months of age was randomly selected with a validated multistage clustered design, with the Health Survey 1999 sample used as the sampling frame. The sample was stratified according to governorate, place of residence (urban, nonurban, or refugee camp), locality, and size of locality (number of households). A cross-sectional survey of nutritional status was carried out. Data were collected by interviews with the primary caregivers of the children. Measurements were made of children's weight and height or length. Food-intake data were collected by the 24-hour food-recall method with the use of a booklet of photographs of foods commonly eaten in Palestine. Results. A total of 3,089 children were assessed, of whom 3.1% in the West Bank and 3.9% in the Gaza Strip were suffering from acute malnutrition; the prevalence of chronic malnutrition was 9.2% in the West Bank and 12.7% in the Gaza Strip (p = .02). Sex, refugee status, locality, and maternal education were not significantly associated with acute malnutrition by logistic regression analysis, whereas infants 6 to 23 months of age were significantly at risk. Calorie and protein intakes were generally lower than recommended dietary allowances. Conclusions. The prevalence rates of both acute and chronic malnutrition among children in the West Bank and Gaza are significantly higher than the national Palestinian averages. There is a need to establish nutritional surveillance systems to monitor the nutritional status of children in conflict areas.
Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation. The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.
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