The Impact of the Food and Financial Crises on Child Mortality: The Case of Sub-Saharan Africa
In 2010, as part of its research programme on the impact of economic shocks on children's lives, UNICEF IRS carried out a study on the impact of the food and financial crises on child mortality.
The research analyzes the causes of the decline of the under-5 mortality rate (U5MR) in Sub-Saharan Africa over the years 1995-2007 by estimating an aggregate econometric model for a panel of 40 countries. This model is then used to simulate the impact of the 2008-09 global economic crisis on child mortality, by comparing the number of child deaths which would have occurred under a ‘no crisis on counterfactual scenario’ with those simulated under the actual ‘crisis scenario’.
The results of the study suggest that in Sub-Saharan Africa the economic slowdown – and in some countries the negative economic growth – generated by the global crisis caused an additional 27000 child deaths. However, if changes occurring during 2008-09 in other determinants of U5MR are factored in, the number of child deaths declined by 15000 units in relation to the counterfactual scenario. A protective effect on U5MR was played by the surge in food production and the increase of public expenditure and foreign aid to health. The countries most negatively affected by the impact of the crisis were the Sudano-Sahelian and Eastern African ones, while Coastal West Africa and Southern Africa generally experienced a steady decline in child deaths. Starting from the U5MR estimates for 2009, the model is also used to assess what values the determinants of U5MR should take over 2009-2015 in order for the countries of the region to meet the MDG4 target as closely as possible. The paper also analyzes the determinants of U5MR inequality by wealth quintiles by making use of both aggregate and DHS data on access to services, family characteristics, income per capita, and other variables.
An output of the study includes a computer programme (using Java), which simulates the impact of change in economic and social variables on child mortality for 43 Sub-Saharan African countries. The programme enables the user to see to what extent changes in determinant variables produce changes in U5MRs and U5 death rates, as well as indicating the distance from MDG4.