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The Impact of Natural Disasters on Violence, Mental Health, Food Insecurity, and Stunting in the Philippines: Findings from the Longitudinal Cohort Study on the Filipino Child

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Document pages: 24 pages

Abstract: Background: Climate change is leading to an increased number of natural disasters. Children from low- and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected. The impacts of exposure to multiple natural disasters on the development of children are not well understood. The Philippines had 6.5 million people affected by natural disasters in 2018 and is therefore an ideal country in which to study the cumulative effects of natural disasters on human development. Methods: We used wave 1 (2016–17) of the Longitudinal Cohort Study on the Filipino Child, a nationally representative cohort study of 4952 10-year-old children, to examine the impact of natural disasters. For caregivers, we examined mental health, family violence, and food insecurity. For children, we examined exposure to violence and stunting. We used random effects models to estimate the associations between natural disasters and children’s development outcomes and caregivers’ outcomes, after adjusting for neighbourhood, demographic, and geographic variables. Disaster exposure was measured using average neighbourhood reports and data linked from the International Disaster Database (EM-DAT), an independent measure of community exposure to disaster. Findings: We found that experiencing natural disasters, as measured by neighbourhood reports, was associated with higher levels of family violence in the previous 12 months, parenting stress, children witnessing physical violence, physical abuse of children, stunting in children, and greater food insecurity. Associations with natural disasters measured using EM-DAT data showed a similar pattern: exposure to greater numbers of natural disasters was associated with higher levels of family violence, physical abuse of children, stunting in children, and food insecurity. Interpretation: This is the first national study to document that cumulative measures of natural disasters had small, but wide-ranging, impacts on children and their caregivers. Further research is needed to identify factors that will protect populations who are at risk of high levels of natural disasters to ensure the optimal development of children.Funding Statement: This research was supported by the Australian National University Philippines Project, funded by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The LCSFC is funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Philippines Department of Health, and the Philippines National Economic and Development AuthorityDeclaration of Interests: Dr. Edwards reports grants from Philippines Project which is funded by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, during the conduct of the study. All other authors declare no conflicts of interest.Ethics Approval Statement: The University of San Carlos Institutional Ethics Review Committee approved the survey design, protocol, and instruments.

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