Journal Article

Learning to fight: Afghan child health and in‐utero exposure to conflict

No extant study addresses the persistent detrimental effect of in utero exposure to conflict on early child health in countries experiencing protracted conflict. I therefore estimate the impact of in utero conflict exposure on weight-for-age and height-for-age z-scores (WAZ and HAZ) by applying instrumental variable regression to information on Afghan children aged 0–59 months merged with data on district-level fatalities during the intrauterine period. The instrumental variable is constructed exploiting distance from, and violence intensity at, two conflict hot spots along the Pakistani border. Although like previous research, I find an overall negative effect of violence on WAZ and HAZ, the effect on the former is stronger for children born in districts where long-term conflict is, on average, comparatively lower. I attribute these heterogeneous effects to the fact that households living in environments of constant conflict have developed more effective coping strategies.

Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council.