Political violence, drought and child malnutrition: empirical evidence from Andhra Pradesh, India

Political violence, drought and child malnutrition: empirical evidence from Andhra Pradesh, India

Households in developing countries have to cope with a myriad of uncertain events, some of which may happen simultaneously. One important example is the interplay between climatic shocks and violent conflict.Although the extent to which conflict and disasters interact differs across countries and contexts, in general, people living in fragile and conflict-affected states find it harder to cope with natural disasters given the impact of violence and instability on health, basic service provision, social cohesion, mobility opportunities and livelihoods.

Existing evidence on how individuals, households and communities cope simultaneously with violence and natural disasters is, however, largely anecdotic and descriptive. This is partially due to lack of data, but also to challenges in identifying empirical causal effects when endogeneity biases may be potentially large.

The objective of this paper is to address this gap in the literature by analysing the combined effect of exposure to political violence and drought on child nutrition. The context of the analysis is the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, which was for several decades affected by a left-wing (Naxal) guerilla insurgency. Households in Andhra Pradesh face in addition cyclical climatic shocks that affect the nutrition levels of their children, often quite severely.

The paper shows two important results. First, drought exerts a strong impact on malnutrition, but only when it occurs in a violent environment. Second, the authors found that political violence exerts a long term impact on child malnutrition only indirectly, when the combination of conflict with drought prevents households to appropriately protect their children against adverse nutritional shocks. Although existing data does not show irrefutable evidence for the mechanisms at play, analysis strongly suggests that the adverse combined welfare impact of conflict and drought is explained by a failure of economic coping strategies and restricted access to public services and aid in conflict affected communities, possibly due to fear, insecurity and isolation.

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