, Volume 259, Issue 4, pp 694-701
Date: 28 Sep 2011

Neurological disorders in Iraqi refugees in Jordan: data from the United Nations Refugee Assistance Information System

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Abstract

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recognizes 43.7 million forcibly displaced persons and asylum seekers due to conflict and persecution worldwide. Neurological disorders have rarely been described in displaced persons but likely pose a significant burden of disease. We describe the disease spectrum and health service utilization of Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers with neurological disorders using an information system developed by the UNHCR. Neurological disorders were actively monitored among the 7,642 UNHCR-registered Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers who received health and humanitarian assistance using a pilot, centralized, database called the Refugee Assistance Information System (RAIS) in the Kingdom of Jordan in 2010. There were 122 neurological diagnoses reported in 1,328 refugees (mean age 41 years, 49% female, 10% disabled, 43% with pending resettlement applications) in 2,659 health visits, accounting for 17% of all refugees who sought health assistance in RAIS. Referral to a neurologist occurred in 178 cases (13.4%). The most frequent ICD-10 neurological diagnoses were dorsalgia (back pain) (29.7% of individuals with neurological disorders), headache (13.1%), and epilepsy (12.6%). Approximately 1 in 20 Iraqi refugees with a neurological diagnosis self-reported a history of torture, which was higher than Iraqi refugees without a history of torture [66/1,328 versus 196/6,314, odds ratio (OR) = 1.63, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.21–2.18]. Neurological disease affects a high proportion of Iraqi refugees, including victims of torture and the disabled. Refugees require dedicated care for treatment of neurological disease with a focus on pain disorders and epilepsy.