According to the World Health Organisation “children represent the future and ensuring their healthy growth and development ought to be a prime concern of all societies”. However, regional, ethnic and social factors might present specific challenges when trying to ensure health of all children. Roma populations in particular have been found to live in substandard conditions which make them more vulnerable.
In a study we recently published, the authors tried to identify associations between growth indicators and social determinants of health (such as wealth index, region, type of settlement) in Roma and non-Roma children aged below 5 years of age in Serbia. About 2% of Serbian population are Roma and there has been a 36% increase in the numbers of Roma people from 2002 to 2011. They have generally poor living conditions, while poverty and big unemployment rates (about 63% of the total working age population are unemployed) are faced by both Roma and non-Roma populations in Serbia.
The authors used data from the 4th round of the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), which was conducted by UNICEF and the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia. The main results are as follows:
– Roma children were more than three times more likely to exhibit stunted growth and/or severely stunted growth than non-Roma children from the lowest wealth quintile.
– Roma children were 2 times more likely to be underweight and 31% less likely to be overweight compared to non-Roma children.
– The risk of stunted growth among Roma children is significantly increased by living in South East Serbia. Incidentally, this is the region with the highest unemployment rates and the highest number of Roma settlements.
– Non-Roma children residing outside of the Belgrade region had a lower risk of stunted compared to children residing within the Belgrade region
The authors stress the need to fund ethnically and regionally sensitive nutrition programs to feed children-at-need.
** This study was authored by Jelena Brcanski, Aleksandra Jović-Vraneš, Jelena Marinković and Dragana Favre