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The Effect of War on Infant Mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Authors: Elina Elveborg Lindskog
Source: BMC Public Health, 16(1): 1059; DOI: 10.1186/s12889-016-3685-6
Topic(s): Infant mortality
Maternal health
Neonatal mortality
Country: Africa
  Congo Democratic Republic
Published: OCT 2016
Abstract: Background: The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has suffered from war and lingering conflicts in East DRC and has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. Prior research has documented increases in infant and child mortality associated with war, but the empirical evidence is limited in several respects. Measures of conflict are quite crude or conflict is not tightly linked to periods of exposure to infant death. Few studies have distinguished between the effects of war on neonatal versus post-neonatal infants. No study has considered possible differences between women who give birth during wartime and those who do not that may be related to greater infant mortality. Methods: The analysis used the nationally representative sample of 15,103 mothers and 53,768 children from the 2007 and 2013/2014 Demographic Health Survey in the DRC and indicators of conflict events and conflict deaths from the 2013 Uppsala Conflict Data. To account for unobserved heterogeneity across women, a multi-level modeling approach was followed by grouping all births for each woman and estimating random intercepts in discrete time event history models. Results: Post-neonatal mortality increased during the Congolese wars, and was highest where conflict events and deaths were extreme. Neonatal mortality was not associated with conflict levels. Infant mortality was not higher in East DRC, where conflicts continued during the post Congolese war period. Models specifying unobserved differences between mothers who give birth during war and those who have children in peacetime did not reduce the estimated effect of war, i.e., no support was found for selectivity in the sample of births during war. Conclusion: Differences in effects of the Congolese war on neonatal versus post-neonatal mortality suggest that conflict influences the conditions of infants' lives more than the aspects of mothers' pregnancy conditions and delivery that are relevant for infant mortality. These differences may, however, be specific to the nature of conflict and prior conditions in the DRC. Because of continued political instability, violent conflict may be expected to continue in contexts such as the DRC; we must therefore continue to document, analyze and monitor the mechanisms through which war influences infant mortality. Keywords: Congolese wars; DRC; Infant mortality; Infant’s frailty; Maternal behavior; Mother’s frailty; Neonatal mortality; Post-neonatal mortality; Violent conflict.