Journal of Neurology

, Volume 259, Issue 4, pp 694–701 | Cite as

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

  • Farrah J. Mateen
  • Marco Carone
  • Sayre Nyce
  • Jad Ghosn
  • Timothy Mutuerandu
  • Huda Al-Saedy
  • Daniel H. Lowenstein
  • Gilbert Burnham
Original Communication


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.


Refugee Neurology Violence Health services Pain Epilepsy 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Farrah J. Mateen
    • 1
    • 2
    • 7
  • Marco Carone
    • 3
  • Sayre Nyce
    • 4
  • Jad Ghosn
    • 4
  • Timothy Mutuerandu
    • 5
  • Huda Al-Saedy
    • 5
  • Daniel H. Lowenstein
    • 6
  • Gilbert Burnham
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of International HealthThe Bloomberg School of Public Health, The Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of NeurologySchool of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Division of BiostatisticsUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  4. 4.United Nations High Commissioner for RefugeesBeirutLebanon
  5. 5.United Nations High Commissioner for RefugeesAmmanJordan
  6. 6.Department of NeurologyUniversity of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA
  7. 7.Department of NeurologyRoom 627 Pathology Building, Johns Hopkins HospitalBaltimoreUSA

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