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Monsoon weather and early childhood health in India

India is expected to experience an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events in the coming decades, which poses serious risks to human health and wellbeing in the country. This paper aims to shed light on the possible detrimental effects of monsoon weather shocks on childhood undernutrition in India using the Demographic and Health Survey 2015–16, in combination with geo-referenced climate data. Undernutrition is captured through measures of height-for-age, weight-for-height, stunting and wasting among children aged 0–59 months. The standardised precipitation and evapotranspiration index (SPEI) is used to measure climatic conditions during critical periods of child development. The results of a multivariate logistic regression model show that climate anomalies experienced in utero and during infancy are associated with an increased risk of child undernutrition; exposure to excessive monsoon precipitation during these early periods of life elevates the risk of stunting, particularly for children in the tropical wet and humid sub-tropical regions. In contrast, the risk of stunting is reduced for children residing in the mountainous areas who have experienced excessive monsoon precipitation during infancy. The evidence on the short-term effects of climate shocks on wasting is inconclusive. We additionally show that excessive precipitation, particularly during the monsoon season, is associated with an increased risk of contracting diarrhoea among children under five. Diseases transmitted through water, such as diarrhoea, could be one important channel through which excessive rainfall increases the risk of stunting. We find a positive association between childhood undernutrition and exposure to excessive monsoon precipitation in India. Pronounced differences across climate zones are found. The findings of the present analysis warn of the urgent need to provide health assistance to children in flood-prone areas.
Author: Dimitrova, A; Bora, JK
Language: English
Pubished By: PLoS ONE
Pubished date: 2020

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