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Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Print version ISSN 0042-9686


RATSCH, Ilse-Maria  and  CATASSI, Carlo. Coeliac disease: a potentially treatable health problem of Saharawi refugee children. Bull World Health Organ [online]. 2001, vol.79, n.6, pp.542-545. ISSN 0042-9686.

OBJECTIVE: To characterize the clinical and nutritional impact of coeliac disease (gluten-sensitive enteropathy) among Saharawi children living as refugees in Algeria. METHODS: A total of 65 Saharawi children with coeliac disease were compared with 71 age-matched non-coeliac controls. For each participant, the clinical history was taken and a clinical examination, non-quantitative 24-hour dietary recall, anthropometric and skinfold measurements, bioelectric impedance analysis (BIA) of body composition, and venous blood sampling for haemoglobin determination were performed. RESULTS: Gluten-containing food, especially bread, was the staple diet of Saharawi children. Abdominal pain and distension were significantly commoner among children with coeliac disease than in controls ( P < 0.05). The mean height-for-age was significantly lower in such children than in controls (-2.5 + 1.4 units vs -1.8 + 1.3 units, respectively, P < 0.01). No significant differences were found for either skinfold or BIA measurements. Haemoglobin values tended to be lower in children with coeliac disease than in controls. CONCLUSIONS: Coeliac disease has a negative effect on the health status of Saharawi refugee children. Because of the high prevalence of the condition in the Saharawi, a specific programme for treating all affected individuals should be established. Further studies are required to quantify the impact of coeliac disease in other areas of the developing world.

Keywords : Celiac disease [ethnology]; Diet [adverse effects]; Health status; Refugees; Child; Africa; Northern; Algeria.

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