, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 593-606

Short-term determinants of malnutrition among children in Malawi

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Abstract

Short-term determinants of Severe Acute Malnutrition in children in Malawi during the period 2003 to 2009 were investigated in the three regions that compose Malawi – northern, central and southern – through an OLS approach and a first-order autocorrelation model. Explanatory variables were selected according to the definition of food security provided by the 1996 World Food Summit. Monthly changes in the number of children admitted to Nutrition and Rehabilitation Units was the impact variable adopted. The explanatory variables selected included a proxy of household income spent on food and the monthly variation in domestic price of maize, its trend, cyclical, seasonal and irregular components, informal cross-border imports in maize, urea price, non-food price index, and number of Nutrition and Rehabilitation Units. The study integrates recently developed studies on food insecurity in Malawi with regional and monthly perspectives. Results verify that child malnutrition is a chronic problem fuelled by transitory food insecurity, including seasonal and temporary features, with the common determinant being the market dependence of households on food purchases during the lean season. This impact is exacerbated by regional-specific explanatory variables: the variation in seasonal and irregular maize price components and the non-food price index in the central region, along with the cyclical maize price component and net cross-border maize imports in southern Malawi.