Prevalence and Correlates of Food Insecurity among Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon: Data from a Household Survey
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AbstractLebanon hosts the highest per capita refugee concentration worldwide. The Palestinian presence in Lebanon dates from 1948 and they remain a marginalized population. No information on their food security status has been reported previously. A survey of a representative sample of Palestinian refugee households in Lebanon (n = 2501) was conducted using a stratified two stage cluster sampling approach. We measured food insecurity using a modified USDA household food security module, locally validated. We collected data on household demographic, socioeconomic, health, housing, coping strategies and household intake of food groups and analysed these by food security status. About 41% (CI: 39-43) of households reported being food insecure and 20% (CI: 18-22) severely food insecure. Poor households were more likely to be severely food insecure (OR 1.41 (1.06-1.86)) while higher education of the head of household was significantly associated with protection against severe food insecurity (OR 0.66 (0.52-0.84)). Additionally, higher food expenditure and possession of food-related assets were significantly associated with food security (OR 0.93 (0.89-0.97) and OR 0.74 (0.59-0.92), respectively). After adjusting for confounders, households where at least one member suffered from an acute illness remained significantly more likely to be severely food insecure (OR 1.31(1.02-1.66)), as were households whose proxy respondent reported poor mental health (OR 2.64 (2.07-3.38)) and poor self-reported health (OR 1.62 (1.22-2.13). Severely food insecure households were more likely to eat cheaper foods when compared to non-severely food insecure households (p<0.001) and were more likely to rely on gifts (p<0.001) or welfare (p<0.001). They were also more likely to have exhausted all coping strategies, indicating significantly more frequently that they could not do anything (p = 0.0102). Food insecurity is a significant problem among Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and is likely to be exacerbated at this time when the Syrian crisis amplifies the problem.