Prevalence and Determinants of Malnutrition and Intestinal Infections among Children and their Mothers in the Jordan Valley

The Jordan Valley comprises approximately 30% of the land area of the West Bank, and is home to around 60,000 Palestinians.

The ongoing Israeli occupation creates widespread consequences for Palestinians in the area, including movement restrictions, limited access to potable water, poverty, persistent threats of forced relocation and home demolitions, and lack of minimal human security measures. Since much of the Jordan Valley lies within Israeli-controlled Area C, nearly 87% of the land is under full control of Israeli military or settlement jurisdiction, and not the Palestinian Authority.

These factors have a significant impact on healthcare quality and access, affecting the overall health status of the population. Accordingly, our research has aimed at examining the prevalence and determinants of malnutrition and intestinal infections among children and mothers living in Jordan Valley.

A structured household survey was used to gather data at the child, maternal, household, and community levels to examine factors associated with primary outcomes such as childhood stunting, anemia, underweight, obesity, and intestinal infections. Moreover, clinical data derived from stool and blood samples were examined.

Our final study sample consisted of 1,501 children from 587 households in 25 localities of three districts Jericho, Nablus, and Tubas.

Main findings:

• 11.3% are stunted
• 49.3% of children and 19.1% of mothers are anemic
• 8.4% of children and 40.2% of mothers are obese
• 2.3% are underweight
• 8.9% of children are infected with Giardia cyst, 0.4% is infected with Shigella, 0.9% is infected with Salmonella, and 1.8% is infected with Hymenolepis nana worm.

Rates of anemia among children, and rates of obesity and anemia among mothers are alarming, as current trends could have a potentially devastating impact on public health. The coexistence of malnutrition and obesity among members of the same household presents an important challenge for the Palestinian public health system. Consequently, further research to inform effective public health interventions and address this complicated double burden must be encouraged.