Live aid revisited: long-term impacts of the 1984 Ethiopian famine on children
In 1984, the world was shocked at the scale of a famine in Ethiopia that caused over half a million deaths, making it one of the worst in recent history. The mortality impacts are clearly significant. But what of the survivors? This paper provides the first estimates the long-term impact of the famine twenty years later, on the height of young adults aged 17–25 who experienced this severe shock in-utero and as infants during the crisis. Improving methodologically on other studies, famine intensity is measured at the household level, while impacts are assessed using a difference-indifferences comparison across siblings. We find that by adulthood, affected children who were under the age of 36 months at the peak of the crisis are significantly shorter than the older cohort, by at least 3cm. They are also less likely to have completed primary school, and more likely to have experienced recent illness. Indicative calculations show that this may lead to income losses of between 3% and 8% per year over their lifetime. The evidence also suggests that the relief operations at the time made little difference.
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