Environmental Variability and Child Growth in Nepal

Data from the 2011 Nepal Demographic Health Survey are combined with satellite remotely sensed Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) data to evaluate whether interannual variability in weather is associated with child health. For stunting, we focus on children older than 24 months of age. NDVI anomaly averages during cropping months are evaluated during the year before birth, the year of birth, and the second year after birth. For wasting, we assess children under 59 months of age and relate growth to NDVI averages for the current and most recent growing periods. Correlations between short-run indicators of child growth and intensity of green vegetation are generally positive. Regressions that control for a range of child-, mother- and household-specific characteristics produce mixed evidence regarding the role of NDVI anomalies during critical periods in a child‘s early life and the subsequent probability of stunting and wasting. Overall findings suggest that the relationship between environmental conditions and child growth are heterogeneous across the landscape in Nepal and, in many cases, highly non-linear and sensitive to departures from normality.

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