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Impacts of Armed Conflict on Birth Weight: Micro-Level Evidence from Colombia


Date: Thursday 5 May 2022

Time: 13.00 – 14.00

Location: C603

Signe Svallfors Department of Global Public Health, Karolinska Institutet

Armed conflict has been linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes such as low birthweight, stillbirth and neonatal mortality. This study analyzes birth weight in the unique context of Colombia, where a long-standing conflict has created multiple stressors that may impair maternal and child health. Pathways suggested to account for this relationship include mother’s stress, nutritional deficiencies, lack of adequate health care, and intimate partner violence. The article further contributes with novel analyses of the impact of anti-coca aerial fumigations that have been harmful to health. Combining micro-level survey data with spatiotemporal information about organized violence and aerial fumigations, we explore how intrauterine exposure to these stressors are related to birth weight. Using maternal fixed effects models, we find that a mother’s exposure to violence and fumigations is detrimental to the intrauterine growth of her children, net of gestational length, parity, and mother’s characteristics such as age, location or genetics. The reductions in birth weight are driven by exposure to conflict and fumigations in, respectively, the second and third trimesters. Children born to adolescent mothers with low education in urban areas are especially vulnerable to hazardous exposures. The findings are indicative of a scarring effect from organized violence on live-born children that may impair their future health and SES outcomes. The results add to knowledge about maternal and child health during crises, and the importance of context for individuals’ health.

Sunnee Billingsley, Department of Sociology, Stockholm University
Gudrun Østby, Peace Research Institute Oslo
Siddartha Aradhya, Department of Sociology, Stockholm University