Returning Home after Civil War: Food security, nutrition and poverty among Burundese households


Year: 2013 HiCN Working Paper No. 123

Civil wars often force people to leave their homes. Displaced populations run higher risk in terms of disease, hunger and death, something that is well-documented. They leave their land, cattle and other assets behind for an uncertain existence in a refugee camp or depend on relatives or friends. But what happens when they return back home? This paper investigates the food security and poverty of formerly displaced households. Using the 2006 Core Welfare Indicator Survey for Burundi we compare their food intake and their level of expenses with that of their non-displaced neighbours. We test whether it is the duration of displacement that matters for current welfare or the time lapsed since returning. We use log-linear, ordered probit models as well as propensity score matching and an IV- approach to control by self-selection bias. We find that the individuals and households who returned home just before the time of the survey are worse off compared to those who returned several years earlier. On average, it takes 8 to 10 years after return before the level of welfare of the displaced converges to that of the non-displaced. The duration of displacement seems not to matter. On average, the formerly displaced have 7% lower food expenses and calorie intake, showing that the formerly displaced consume relatively more high calorie products. Results seem to be robust after controlling by self-selection bias. Despite international, government and NGO assistance, the welfare of recent returnees is lagging seriously behind in comparison with the local non-displaced populations.

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