Disease as Rough Terrain: A Non - linear Relation between Malaria and Civil Conflict in Sub - Saharan Africa

Authors: Zifeng Wang*, University of Hong Kong, Haohan Chen, New York Uuniversity, Enze Han, University of Hong Kong
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Political Geography, Remote Sensing
Keywords: malaria, conflict, Africa, remote sensing
Session Type: Virtual Lightning Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 24
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Diseases have a profound impact on conflicts, moderated by environment and socio-economic factors. As one of the most widespread and deadly tropical diseases, malaria has been considered a crucial factor that prolongs human and economic development in developing countries, many of which are located in the tropical and subtropical areas. Previous studies argue that malaria can affect the duration of civil conflicts as a rough terrain factor that prevents effective counterinsurgency effort. We theorize a non-linear relationship between civil conflict location and malaria, moderated by environmental and socio-economic factors. To test the theory, we use GIS data to examine sub-national variations, going beyond existing empirical evidence based on country-level data. Specifically, we combine spatial-temporal data of conflict events, malaria distribution, and climate and land cover data in Sub-Saharan Africa, including: spatial-temporal data of conflict events from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), maps of malaria infection and mortality from the Malaria Atlas Project, and data of climate and land cover from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) and Global Food Security-Support Analysis Data (GFSAD). This paper thus makes a novel theoretical contribution on the relationship between tropical diseases and civil conflict processes.

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