Non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension are emerging as growing health problems among Palestinian refugees, said a United Nations report published Tuesday.
While the prevalence of communicable diseases such as tuberculosis is under control, nutritional deficiencies are also becoming a growing problem, according to the annual health report by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
"The reduction of communicable diseases combined with longer life expectancy and modifications in lifestyle, have led to a change in the refugee morbidity profile with the emergence of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer now becoming a major burden," said Guido Sabatinelli, who is UNRWA Director of Health.
Diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer are now among the health programme's major challenges, he said.
Data from 2007 indicate in particular that the prevalence of diabetes and hypertension is on the rise.
Meanwhile, there is also a steady increase in micronutrient deficiencies, especially the lack of iron and vitamin A.
Sabatinelli said that these are related to factors including the consumption of poor quality foods.
They are "contributing to the particularly high levels of anaemia in poverty stricken communities like those in Gaza", noted Sabatinelli.
UNRWA serves over four million refugees, with a 2.5 percent increase in the number of registered refugees in 2007.