Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Food Insecurity and Its Sociodemographic Correlates among Afghan Immigrants in Iran

Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Food Insecurity and Its Sociodemographic Correlates among Afghan Immigrants in Iran

Article excerpt


In the history of the modern world, the situation in Afghanistan has resulted in one of the largest displacements of mankind in search of safety and a better life (1). Migratory movements of the Afghans to Iran have a long history. Transitory migration of the Afghans to Iran motivated by economic differences has occurred since the nineteenth century. Also, Shiite Afghans have been making pilgrimages to Iran for several hundred years. However, the modern history of Afghan immigration to Iran started in 1979. Since then, Afghan immigration to Iran has been primarily motivated by the direct and indirect effects of war, insecurity, threat to female honour (namoos), unemployment, and inflation. In this process, Iran, as one of the most concentrated destination of immigrants and refugees, has hosted around 3 million Afghan migrants and refugees in the past three decades. In spite of the repatriation programme, still around 2 to 2.5 million Afghan immigrants, both legal and illegal, live in Iran (2-4).

Health and nutrition status of immigrants is of concern from public-health point of view. Food insecurity that is characterized by "limited access to or availability of nutritionally-adequate, culturally-relevant, and safe food and/or limited or uncertain ability to acquire food in socially acceptable ways" (5), has long been a problem for the most vulnerable and under-represented segments of the population, including foreign immigrants and refugees. However, research in this field is rare and, thus, the need for assessing the extent of food insecurity among such vulnerable and hard-to-reach segments of the population is of great importance (6).

Food insecurity represents a major public-health concern and is a useful index of health and well-being because it is associated with poverty, ill-health, poor dietary intake (e.g. low intake of fruits and vegetables), limited social capital, and depressive disorders (7). The dynamics of food insecurity reflect the composition and financial circumstances of families (8). In case of immigrants, different factors are identified as being responsible for food insecurity, including economic constraints posed by poverty, low-wage employment, job insecurity, education, and marginal social position as well as the obligation to send money to family remaining in their country of origin in some cases. Also, many immigrants face additional challenges due to lack of valid immigration documents and fear of being deported. Therefore, immigrants are distinguished from many non-immigrants because they face additional pressure that may strain already-limited household food resources. Based on results of previous studies, immigrant families are more likely than native families to face food insecurity. Research also suggests that food insecurity is higher among less-acculturated immigrants (9-10).

Despite the large volume and long trend of Afghan migratory movements to Iran, little information is available on nutritional status of Afghan immigrants in Iran (11). Thus, the present study was undertaken to examine the extent of food insecurity and its correlates among Afghan immigrants in two metropolitan cities Tehran and Mashhad in 2010.


Study design

This cross-sectional study was conducted in the framework of a larger study on the adaptation of Afghan immigrants in Iran (3). The study was performed in Tehran and Mashhad--two metropolitan cities of Iran--during February and March 2010. Based on 2006 Census, the majority of Afghan immigrants (72%) resided in urban areas of the country while only less than 3% were in refugee camps. The major provinces that host these immigrants include Tehran (32.7%), Khorasan Razavi (Mashhad) (13.3%), Isfahan (11.7%), and Sistan-Baluchistan (9.3%) (3). Selection of Tehran and Mashhad as the study sites was due to the sizeable population of Afghans in these two cities.


A sample of 310 adult females (aged 20 years and above) from Afghan households residing in Tehran (n=155) and Mashhad (n=155) was recruited. …

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