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Impact of desertification and land degradation on Colombian children



Desertification affected more than 24% of Colombia’s land mass in 2012. The study aims to establish the singular impact of desertification on under-five mortality in Colombia.


Descriptive statistics and multivariate logit regressions are applied to the population of live births and under-five deaths in Colombia 2008–2011.


Children have a higher probability to die in rural communities and among mothers with low education who also have inferior health insurance. Controlling for those, desertification below about 50% of the land, lowers child mortality and increases it after that percentage. The impact of extraction of hydrocarbons is 12.45, metals 5.73 and others 4.91 times higher in municipalities with more than 50% of desertification territory. Rural areas with high desertification have 2.25 times higher risk of mortality due to malnutrition.


In the short term, when mines have less or no effect on desertification, living conditions may improve and reduce child mortality. In the long term, however, as desertification intensifies affecting the ecosystem, child mortality increases. More research is needed, and policy formulated accordingly.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Marta Cecilia Jaramillo-Mejía.

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The authors declare that they do not have conflict of interest.

Ethical statement

The data used in this paper were not collected from human subjects, so it did not require ethical approval. The availability of data was based on an agreement between Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (DANE) and Universidad Icesi, and it did not include any identification of people; thus, it remains anonymous.

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This article is part of the special issue “Environmental and health equity.”

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Jaramillo-Mejía, M.C., Chernichovsky, D. Impact of desertification and land degradation on Colombian children. Int J Public Health 64, 67–73 (2019).

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  • Desertification
  • Land degradation
  • Desert
  • Child mortality
  • Poverty
  • Food security
  • Colombia