Objective: Nutrition status of preschool children in Azezo, North West Ethiopia, and Ethiopian-born and native Israeli children aged 7 to 11 y and 12 to 15 y was studied. The aim of the study was to determine the growth patterns of immigrant children after changes in their nutritional habits. Methods: The Ethiopian-born and native school children were recruited from a caravan-dwelling site and a boarding school and from a town adjacent to the caravan site and a boarding school, respectively. Results: Weight for age was lower than -2 standard deviations of the Z score in 40.5%, 55.6%, 31.9%, and 61% of children aged 1 to 24, 25 to 36, 37 to 48, and 49 to 60 mo, respectively. Similarly, 18.9%, 59.3%, 39.1%, and 19.5% of children aged 1 to 24, 25 to 36, 37 to 48, and 49 to 60 mo had a height for age lower than -2 standard deviations of the Z score. The Ethiopian-born boys aged 7 to 11 y had lower body weight (P < 0.03), mean arm muscle circumference, plasma transthyretin and magnesium (P < 0.0001), and higher triceps skinfold thickness (P < 0.01) compared with the controls. Similarly, the Ethiopian-born girls had lower body weight (P < 0.006), weight-to-height ratio (P < 0.02), mean arm muscle circumference and plasma transthyretin, calcium, and magnesium (P < 0.0001), and higher triceps skinfold thickness (P < 0.0001) than their Israeli counterparts. Weight, weight-to-height ratio, mean arm muscle circumference, plasma calcium and magnesium (P < 0.0001), and transthyretin (P < 0.01) were lower and triceps skinfold thickness (P < 0.0001) was higher in the Ethiopian-born boarding school children than in the native Israelis of the same age range. Conclusions: The Azezo study confirmed that malnutrition-induced developmental impairment in preschool children is a major problem in Ethiopia. It is a manifestation of a rural economic and educational poverty and cannot be eradicated by palliative short-term nutritional programs. Although ethnicity and prenatal and postnatal malnutrition may have contributed, an insufficiency or imbalance of vital nutrients appeared to be the determinant factor for the lower relative growth of the Ethiopian-born children. The children from Ethiopia may have a propensity to avoid certain foods because of digestive intolerance or early childhood dietary habituation. Parental financial constraint may have been a factor in the younger group. These findings have implications for nutrition and welfare policies for children emigrating from developing countries.
- Immigrant children
- Vitamin A