The food crisis encountered in 2002 in Malawi was arguably one of the worst in the recent history of the country. The World Food Programme estimated that between 2.1 and 3.2 million people were threatened by starvation. Despite this assumed severity, not much research on the actual consequences of the crisis has been carried out so far. In order to fill this gap, this paper aims to identify the effects of the 2002 food crisis on the health status of the very young children exposed to it. Given the lack of longitudinal data and data collected during the crisis, assessing the potential impact of the 2002 events and the emergency aid that followed is challenging. We rely on representative data collected before and after the crisis and various methods from the impact evaluation literature to create a counterfactual in order to assess the implications of the crisis. Our analysis indicates that the net impact of the crisis was surprisingly low. Under-five excess mortality must have been below the 10,000 crisis-induced deaths suggested by some NGOs.Moreover, we also do not find any general and lasting loss in weight or height of children below the age of five. Nevertheless, if we disaggregate our sample population further by age and gender, we do find some nutritional impacts, both positive and negative. The positive effects identified seem to be the result of the combined influence of selective mortality and effective aid and policy interventions responding to the crisis.

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ISS Staff Group 1: Economics of Sustainable Development
Journal of African Economies
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Hartwig, R., & Grimm, M. (2012). An assessment of the effects of the 2002 food crisis on children's health in Malawi. Journal of African Economies, 21(1), 124–165. doi:10.1093/jae/ejr028