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DISEASE ENVIRONMENT AND CIVIL CONFLICT

Final Report Summary - DISCON (DISEASE ENVIRONMENT AND CIVIL CONFLICT)

Background. Civil conflicts are the most common warfare events during the last fifty years. Civil conflicts account for the largest number of conflict-related casualties, cause large social and economic disruption, and constitute a major factor responsible for economic backwardness. The goal of this research project is to investigate the role of the disease environment as a new, so far largely overlooked, determinant of civil conflict, using data at the national and subnational level.
Project Status. The first work package was devoted to the investigation of the role of the disease environment in a cross-country perspective, replicating existing studies on the country-specific determinants of conflict and verifying whether accounting for the disease environment delivers additional explanatory power. The collection of data on the exposure to multi-host vector-transmitted (MHV) diseases that has particularly suitable features for this purpose has been completed at the end of year 1.
The second work package was concerned with the investigation of panel evidence regarding potential interactions between climatological shocks and the disease environment that affect civil conflict. In contrast to the work in the first work package, which is based on cross-country variation, the analysis in the second work package exploits within-country variation over time, which allows for the identification of a causal effect by exploiting exogenous, year-to-year, variation in weather shocks and focusing on the interaction effect between the disease environment and these shocks for the outbreak of civil violence. Upon recommendation of reviewers, the empirical results of the first and the second work package have been combined within one research article. This article has been published in a leading international general interest journal, the Economic Journal (Cervellati, M., Sunde, U. and Valmori, S. (2017), Pathogens, Weather Shocks and Civil Conflicts. Economic Journal, doi:10.1111/ecoj.12430).
The third work package was devoted to collecting new, geo-referenced data in different dimensions such as conflict, weather, income, population, education to investigate potential interactions between climatological shocks and the disease environment at the sub-national level. This has resulted in two distinct projects. The first project is based on a novel data set at a grid raster of 2.5° latitude times 2.5° longitude and analyzes the role of long-run exposure to malaria for incidences of civil violence, exploiting cross-cell variation in the stability of malaria transmission and exploring the potential of anti-malaria policies to reduce civil violence beyond their primary effects on public health. This research has delivered a research article that has been accepted for publication conditional on minor amendments at the journal Economic Policy and is to appear in spring 2018. The second project is based on a novel panel data set at a grid raster of 1° latitude times 1° longitude and investigates the role of disease shocks on civil conflict outbreaks. Identification is established by exploiting the interaction between the occurrence of unusually suitable weather conditions for malaria transmission and variation in the susceptibility of the adult population for malaria infections. The corresponding paper is under review at a leading general interest journal in economics.