Weather shocks across seasons and child health: Evidence from a panel study in the Kyrgyz Republic

It has been shown consistently in the literature that early life exposure to extreme weather events affects children’s nutritional status and related long-term health and well-being outcomes. The effects of weather shocks other than rainfall, as well as heterogeneous effects among population subgroups and moderators of this relationship, however, are less well understood. By combining a rich three-wave representative household panel dataset from Kyrgyzstan, a country where weather extremes such as droughts, floods but also cold spells are predicted to increase in frequency and severity due to climate change in the near future, with location-matched weather data, this paper analyzes how different weather shocks (cold winter, drought, excessive rainfall) affect the probability of stunting of children under five. Using fixed effects regression models, we find that children under 20 months are most severely affected by all three types of early life weather shocks. Most notably, we find that cold shocks experienced in winter increase the probability of stunting, and that this effect is particularly pronounced for households that mainly rely on electricity for indoor heating, potentially due to frequent power cuts occurring in winter. We do not find rural/urban differences, but we find some seasonal effects of shock exposure. Overall, effects are driven by boys, even though we do not find statistically significant gender differences. Identifying the geographical and sociodemographic subgroups of children most vulnerable to extreme weather events can support the design of targeted policies addressing child malnutrition.

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Suggested Citation

Freudenreich, H., Aladysheva, A., & Brück, T. (2022). Weather shocks across seasons and child health: Evidence from a panel study in the Kyrgyz Republic. World Development, 155, 105801.