In response to the high prevalence of iron deficiency anemia – the lack of red blood cells to provide oxygen throughout the body – among Palestine refugees in Lebanon, UNRWA routinely screens those with a high risk, including pregnant women and infants under a year, while providing iron supplements to anemic patients and infants from six months of age. Despite these mitigation measures, the prevalence of anemia remains high in this community.
Having assessed a low level of knowledge on iron-rich nutritional sources and associated food preparation and feeding practices, as well as misconceptions about the use of iron supplements, the Agency launched an anemia awareness-raising campaign in 2010. The campaign, led by community health care workers, brought together a broad range of partners from the health sector and fostered the active participation of the community, continuing through 2011.
Reflecting upon her role in the campaign, Salma, a community health-care worker from Rashidieh health clinic said: “Through this campaign, we have been able to improve our efforts in preventing incidences of anemia from occurring, while also responding to patients who are in need of treatment. The community has been very open and responsive to work.”
Hana, a young mother from Burj Barajneh refugee camp has benefited from the program, commenting: “Thanks to activities within the UNRWA clinic, I received a lot of practical guidance on which ingredients to select, and how to prepare meals to ensure the best possible health for my child.”
At the end of 2012, a study to gauge the impact of the campaign noted a tangible reduction in the incidences of new cases of iron deficiency anemia among one-year-old infants across UNRWA’s network of 18 primary health care clinics. In 2010, 444 of 1200 registered infants suffered from anemia (approx. 37 per cent). This number reduced to 380 infants of 1387 registered (approx. 27 per cent). A sample of clinics in Lebanon indicated both a change in attitudes and the adoption of evolved feeding practices.
Committed to ensuring the best possible care for Palestine refugees through its network of health clinics, UNRWA is actively engaging the Palestine refugee community to prevent non-communicable diseases, including anemia.