Frontpage          About the committee          Support us          Contact us     

News Archive 2015
News Archive 2014
News Archive 2013
News Archive 2012
News Archive 2011
News Archive 2010
News Archive 2009
News Archive 2008
News Archive 2007

Series of Norwegian nutrition studies in the refugee camps

A Norwegian humanitarian organisation and a university college has cooperated on researching the nutrition levels of the Saharawi refugees. The cooperation has led to a series of publications. See the studies here.
Published: 13.10 - 2011 13:31Printer version    
charlotte_tvete_350.jpgCharlotte Tvete is one of several Norwegians who have carried out nutrition research in the Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria together with local health workers.The Saharawi refugees have through a number of years been living under very harsh circumstances. It is basically impossible to do agriculture in the dry area, and most of the refugees are completely dependent on foreign aid. Thus, the nutrition level is very hard.

For over a decade, Norwegian Churd Aid (NCA) and the University College of Oslo and Akershus (HIOA) has cooperated with the Saharawi authorities in mapping the nutrition situation in the camps. The work has, among other things, led to a nutrition strategy which local authorities use to plan actions and priorities in relation to food and nutrition.

The malnutrition among children has showed to be particularly serious, as well as the high levels of anemia among children and women. This is due to a lack of nutritious food and knowledge of health and infant nutrition issues among the camp population. The NCA has handed out fresh food to the camp hospitals for over a decade, leading to an improved access to fresh fruit and vegetables. In addition, the NCA and HIOA has worked on training local health workers on issues relating to prevention and treatment of malnutrition.

Another nutrition related problem in the camps, are the iodine situation. The most common iodine related problems internationally, is a lack of the element, leading to strauma and thyroid disorders. In the Saharawi refugees, however, the refugees suffer from the opposite problem. The studies show that a high intake of iodine in the camps can lead to the same diseases as low iodine levels, but it has remained a little researched topic. The NCA and HIOA have carried out a number of studies to collect data - and contribute to regulate - the iodine intake of the refugees.

The work of the NCA and HIOA has led to a number of publications:

  • Henjum S, Barikmo I, Strand TA, Oshaug A, Torheim LE. (2011). Iodine-induced goitre and high rates of anaemia among Saharawi refugee women. Public Health Nutr.  
  • Barikmo, I, Henjum, S, Dahl, L, Oshaug, A, Torheim, LE. (2011).  Environmental implication of iodine in water, milk and other foods used in Saharawi refugees camps in Tindouf, Algeria. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 24:637-641.
  • Henjum S, Barikmo I, Gjerlaug AK, Mohamed-Lehabib A, Oshaug A, Strand TA, Torheim LE. (2010). Endemic goitre and excessive iodine in urine and drinking water among Saharawi refugee children. Public Health Nutr, 13(9):1472-1477.Download.
  • Henjum S, Strand TA, Torheim LE, Oshaug A, Parr CL. (2010). Data quality and practical challenges of thyroid volume assessment by ultrasound under field conditions - observer errors may affect prevalence estimates of goitre. Nutrition Journal,9:66. Read more and download.

  • Excess iodine intake among refugees from Western Sahara. A cross-sectional study of long-term refugees located in Tindouf, Algeria. (2011). Sigrun Henjum. Read more.

  • The life of the Saharawi Food Basket. A report from the Nutrition Group in the Saharawi Refuee camps (June 2011). Saharawi Ministry of Health, Norwegian Church Aid, Akershus University College.
  • Saharawi Nutrition Strategy, Tindouf, Algeria (May2009). Saharawi Ministry of Health, Norwegian Church Aid, Akershus University College.
  • Nutritional and Food Security Survey among the Saharawi refugees in Camps in Tindouf, Algeria (October 2008). World Food Programme, Medicos Del Mundo, Norweigan Church Aid, Akershus University College.
  • Prevalence of goitre and evaluation of food intake among Saharawi refugees in camps in Tindouf, Algeria (2008). Saharawi Ministry of Health, Norwegian Church Aid, Akershus University College. Download.  
  • Base-line and assessment study of the nutritional situation in two regions in the Saharawi Refugee Camps, Tindouf, Algeria (2005). Norwegian Church Aid, Akershus University  College, Saharawi Ministry of Health. Download.

    Master theses
  • Iodine intake and iodine status among lactating women and their children in the Saharawi refugee camps, Algeria. (2011). By Inger Aakre. Read more and download.
  • Iodine status and thyroid function among lactating women in Saharawi refugee camps, Algeria. (2011). By Navnit Kaur Grewal, Høgskolen i Akershus. Read more and download.
  • Kostholdsstudie blant Saharawiske kvinner i flyktningleirer ved Tindouf, Algerie : en kartlegging av matinntak og måltidsmønster blant flyktninger fra Vest-Sahara. (2010). By Jane Johannesen. Read more and download.
  • Challenges with iron deficiency anemia among women of reproductive age in Saharawi refugee camps, Tindouf Algeria. (2010). By Yishu Sun. Read more and download.
  • Hvordan utvikle et opplæringsprogram som kan bidra til å redusere prevalensen av underernæring i flyktningleirene i Tindouf, Algerie? : en studie utført i de saharawiske flyktningleirene i Tindouf, Algerie (2007). By Olaug Charlotte Tvete. Download (in Norwegian).
  • Struma blant saharawiske flyktninger i Algerie - for liteeller for mye jod? : en kartlegging av jodstatus blant flyktninger fra Vest-Sahara. Av Anne Karine Gjerlaug (2007). Read more and download (in Norwegian).
  • "Det finnes ingen større sorg på jorden enn tapet av ens eget hjemland" : en evaluering av behandlingen av underernærte pasienter ved sykehusene i saharaúiske flyktningleirer i Algerie (2005). By Anne-Gry Røine. Read more (in Norwegian).

    Other relevant reports
  • Nutrition Survey Western Sahara Refugee Camps, Tindouf, Algeria. Report on Nutrition Survey and Anaemia Intervention Baseline Analysis.(2011). United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, World Food Programme & Emergency Nutrition Network.
  • UNHCR/WFP joint assessment mission. Assistance to refugees from Western Sahara. (2007). United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees & World Food Programme.
  • Nutrition Survey Saharawi Refugee Camps Tindouf- Algeria. (2005). United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, World Food Programme, National Institute for Research on Food and Nutrition.United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.
  • Anthropometric and micronutrient survey. (2002). United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees, World Food Programme, Centre for International Child Health- Institute of Child Health.
  • Nutritional status of the Highly Vulnerable Groups in Saharawi Refugee Camps. (2001). United Nations High Commissioner for Rrefugees & Comitato Internazionale per lo Siviluppo dei Popoli.

    Do you want to learn more? Contact:
    At HIOA: Ingrid Barikmo, e-mail;
    At NCA:  Eirik Kirkerud, e-mail:




    Since 1975, three quarters of the territory of Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco. A majority of the population is still living in refugee camps in Algeria. Those who remained in their homeland are subjected to serious harassment from the Moroccan occupiers. For more than 40 years the Sahrawis have been waiting for the fullfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.

    Give a donation!
    Support the Support Committee. Help us work for the Sahrawi people's struggle for self-determination. Give a donation here.

    Støttekomiteen for Vest-Sahara, , - :
    Bank: Kontonr 9857.05.48999 - 987 378 352 -