The Impact of Civil Conflict on Child Health: Evidence from Colombia


Internal armed conflicts have become more common and more physically destructive since the mid-20th century, with devastating consequences for health and development in low-and middle-income countries. This paper investigates the causal impacts of the long-term internal conflict on child health in Colombia, following an identification strategy based on the temporal and geographic variation of conflict intensity. We estimate the effect of different levels of conflict intensity on height-for-age (HAZ), weight-for-age (WAZ), and weight-for-height z-scoresamong children under five years old, and explore the underlying potential mechanisms, through maternal health behavior and health care utilization. We find a harmful effect of exposure to conflict violence during pregnancy for HAZ and WAZ, in the full sample and even more strongly in the rural sample, yet these estimates are smaller than those found for shorter term conflicts. The underlying pathways appear to operate around the time of the pregnancy and birth (in the form of maternal alcohol use, use of antenatal care and skilled birth attendance), rather than during the post-birth period (via breastfeeding or vaccination). The most adverse impacts of conflict violence on child health and utilization of maternal healthcare were observed in municipalities which suffered from intermittent presence of armed groups.

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