Over the past decades child stunting in Ethiopia has persisted at alarming rates. While the country experienced several droughts during this period, it has also received enormous amounts of food aid, leading some to question the effectiveness of food aid in reducing child malnutrition. Using nationally representative household surveys from 1995-96 and controlling for program placement, we find that children between 6 and 24 months experienced 1 cm less growth over a six-month period in communities where half the crop area was damaged compared to those without crop damage. Food aid was also found to have a substantial effect on growth of children in this age group. Moreover, on average the total amount of food aid appeared to be sufficient to protect children against plot damage if allocated appropriately, an encouraging sign that food aid can act as an effective insurance mechanism, though its cost effectiveness needs further investigation. Together these results point to the depth and chronic nature of poverty in Ethiopia.
Child growth, shocks, and food aid in rural Ethiopia, presented at Staying Poor: Chronic Poverty and Development Policy, Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester, 7-9 April 2003. Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), Manchester, UK, i + 34 pp.