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Ethiopian Journal of Health Development

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Common micronutrient deficiencies among food aid beneficiaries: Evidence from refugees in Ethiopia

J Haidar

Abstract


Background: Ethiopia is amongst the African countries that have received significant food aid. Nonetheless, the common micronutrient deficiencies among food aid beneficiaries are not well documented.
Objective: To find out the common micronutrient deficiencies among food aid beneficiaries in the country based on available data.
Methods: Literature search was made from the Internet, peer-reviewed journals, various agency reports, national survey data, books, handouts and Masters in Public Health (MPH) theses since the year 2000.  Micronutrient status information for food aid beneficiaries came mainly from studies in refugee/emergency settings, with very few published studies found documenting the nutritional status of non-emergency situations. The information obtained from the above mentioned sources was grouped under the major common micronutrient deficiencies in tabular forms that included the site where the study was conducted, subjects included in the assessment, sample size used, indicators used (clinical, biochemical and dietary) and the findings.
Results: Vitamin A and iron deficiencies were the most prevalent micronutrient deficiencies among food aid beneficiaries. Other probable deficiencies prevailing were zinc, vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, niacin folate, cyano-cobalamine, ascorbic acid vitamin D and calcium because of the low intake of dairy products and meat. In some cases, food aid rations provided insufficient quantity and quality of micronutrients, particularly when food aid was a major food source. Some logistic and budgetary constraints were reported as an impediment to assess the micronutrient status of the beneficiaries in field settings.
Conclusion: Although the most important deficiencies are identified, the information cannot be generalized to all beneficiaries as their conditions and the types of food donated in emergencies could vary from place to place and therefore the findings should be interpreted contextually. The logistic problem documented underlines the need for seeking collaboration with research institutes and other government agencies whose interests fall in such undertakings. Furthermore, simple dietary assessment, anthropometric measurements and examination of clinical signs need to be considered in the future to assess the major micronutrient deficiencies. [Ethiop J Health Dev. 2011;25(3):222-229]



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