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HOW MANY INFANTS LIKELY DIED IN AFRICA AS A RESULT OF THE 2008–2009 GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS?

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Correspondence to: Development Research Group, The World Bank, MSN MC 3-311, 1818 H Street, N.W. Washington DC 20433, USA. E-mail: jfriedman@worldbank.org

ABSTRACT

The human consequences of the recent global financial crisis for the developing world are presumed to be severe, but few studies have quantified them. This letter estimates the human cost of the 2008–2009 global financial crisis in one critical dimension—infant mortality—for countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The analysis pools birth-level data, as reported in female adult retrospective birth histories from all Demographic and Health Surveys collected in sub-Saharan Africa. This results in a data set of 639,000 births to 264,000 women in 30 countries. We use regression models with flexible controls for temporal trends to assess an infant's likelihood of death as a function of fluctuations in national income. We then calculate the expected number of excess deaths by combining these estimates with growth shortfalls as a result of the crisis. The results suggest 28,000–50,000 excess infant deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in the crisis-affected year of 2009. Notably, most of these additional deaths were concentrated among girls. Policies that protect the income of poor households and that maintain critical health services during times of economic contraction may reduce the expected increase in mortality. Interventions targeted at female infants and young girls can be particularly beneficial. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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