IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Saving lives, preserving livelihoods: Understanding risk, decision-making and child health in a food crisis

Listed author(s):
  • Hampshire, Katherine Rebecca
  • Panter-Brick, Catherine
  • Kilpatrick, Kate
  • Casiday, Rachel E.
Registered author(s):

    The purpose of this paper is to analyse household decision-making regarding resource allocation in the aftermath of a food crisis in rural Niger. International attention had resulted in humanitarian agencies launching emergency nutrition programmes to alleviate persistently high levels of acute child malnutrition. We conducted participant observation, 93 in-depth interviews, 15 focus groups, 44 feeding and illness histories for children under 5, and debriefing sessions with local humanitarian staff. The impetus for this study came from observations of marked intra-household differences in child growth and health status, despite the caregivers' ethos of treating children equally. Egalitarian input, however, does not always result in equal outcomes: vulnerable children become "victims of non-discrimination" through a form of benign neglect engendered by pervasive poverty. The ethos and practices of equal investment in children are rooted in a need to balance the perceived risks to children with the preservation of long-term livelihoods. We discuss the mismatch of views between external interventions, which focus on saving individual children's lives, and local priorities, aimed at spreading risk. This mismatch is rooted in the different ways in which humanitarian agencies and local communities weigh up risks and vulnerabilities in matters of child health.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 68 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 4 (February)
    Pages: 758-765

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:68:y:2009:i:4:p:758-765
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    Order Information: Postal:

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    in new window

    1. Engle, Patrice L. & Nieves, Isabel, 1993. "Intra-household food distribution among Guatemalan families in a supplementary feeding program: Behavior patterns," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 36(12), pages 1605-1612, June.
    2. Heaton, Tim B. & Forste, Renata & Hoffmann, John P. & Flake, Dallan, 2005. "Cross-national variation in family influences on child health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 97-108, January.
    3. Messer, Ellen, 1997. "Intra-household allocation of food and health care: Current findings and understandings--Introduction," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 44(11), pages 1675-1684, June.
    4. Harkness, Sara & Super, Charles M., 1994. "The developmental niche: A theoretical framework for analyzing the household production of health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 217-226, January.
    5. Millard, Ann V., 1994. "A causal model of high rates of child mortality," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 253-268, January.
    6. Gittelsohn, Joel & Shankar, Anita V. & West, Keith P. & Faruque, Faisal & Gnywali, Tara & Pradhan, Elizabeth K., 1998. "Child feeding and care behaviors are associated with xerophthalmia in rural Nepalese households," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 477-486, August.
    7. Howard, Mary, 1994. "Socio-economic causes and cultural explanations of childhood malnutrition among the Chagga of Tanzania," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 239-251, January.
    8. Engle, Patrice L. & Castle, Sarah & Menon, Purnima, 1996. "Child development: Vulnerability and resilience," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 43(5), pages 621-635, September.
    9. Engle, Patrice L. & Menon, Purnima & Haddad, Lawrence, 1999. "Care and Nutrition: Concepts and Measurement," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(8), pages 1309-1337, August.
    10. Miller, Barbara D., 1997. "Social class, gender and intrahousehold food allocations to children in South Asia," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 44(11), pages 1685-1695, June.
    11. Castle, Sarah E., 1995. "Child fostering and children's nutritional outcomes in rural Mali: The role of female status in directing child transfers," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 40(5), pages 679-693, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:68:y:2009:i:4:p:758-765. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.