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The Global Financial Crisis: Assessing Vulnerability For Women And Children, Identifying Policy Responses

1801 words - 8 pages

The Global Financial Crisis:
Assessing Vulnerability for Women and Children, Identifying
Policy Responses

Mayra Buvinic
World Bank

February 2009

The current global financial crisis, on top of recent food price increases (which, while down from their peak last year continue to affect the poor in developing countries), will have serious gender specific consequences for women in poor countries and their children. While women (and men) in most developing countries are vulnerable to increased risk of poverty and hardship, exposure to gender-specific negative impacts are particularly high in a subset of countries. These are countries where pre-existing high infant mortality rates ...view middle of the document...

Their situation is especially precarious in the sub-set of 15 countries, mostly in Africa, that are affected by both low female schooling and high infant and child deaths as well as decelerating growth. Another group of 19 countries have yet to suffer reduced growth but have one or both of the pre-existing conditions that put women and girls at high risk of being disproportionately affected, if and when the crisis engulfs these countries.

It is worth emphasizing that in poor countries with pre-existing high infant and child mortality rates the fall in household incomes is likely to further increase child deaths. This increased mortality of infants and children is concerning in its own right, but also worrying is the disproportionate burden it places on women and girls. Specifically, it exposes women to the multiple costs of additional infant deaths and increases the probability that these deaths will affect girls disproportionately. It is estimated that between 200,000 and 400,000 additional infant deaths per year on average between 2009 and the MDG target year of 2015 will be the result of the financial shock—an additional 1.4 million to 2.8 million more infant deaths if the crisis persists (World Bank 2009) .

Infant deaths negatively affect mothers (more so than fathers) since women are exposed to the health risks of additional pregnancies (if parents choose to have additional births); in addition, mothers are the main care providers in poor households and sick children increase mothers’ time and psychic costs. Evidence from 59 developing countries covering 1.7 million births suggests that while boys and girls benefit equally from positive shocks in per capita GDP, negative shocks are much more harmful to girls than to boys: a one or more unit fall in GDP increases average infant mortality of 7.4 deaths for 1,000 births for girls and 1.5 deaths for 1,000 births for boys (Baird et al 2007) .

Girls in poor countries with pre-existing low female schooling are highly vulnerable to being pulled out of school as households cope with declining household income. In other low income countries girls and boys may similarly drop out of school because households no longer can afford school fees and/or children need to contribute with their labor to household income. An example of the former group of countries is Madagascar, a country with low female enrolment rates, where girls were more likely to drop out of school than boys as agricultural income plummeted . In Ivory Coast, however, both girls and boys were pulled out of school as result of a drought, but boys’ enrolments dropped 14 percentage points compared to 11 percentage points for girls .

These household coping strategies are less apparent in middle-income countries, where children are more likely to be kept in school, cushioned perhaps by the presence of social safety nets and/or relatively easier access to loans (formal or informal). In Peru, for instance, the economic...

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