Food transfers, electronic food vouchers and child nutritional status among Rohingya children living in Bangladesh
Paul Dorosh (),
Gracie Rosenbach () and
PLOS ONE, 2020, vol. 15, issue 4, 1-15
Objective: To examine associations between receipt of an electronic food voucher (e-voucher) compared to food rations on the nutritional status of Rohingya children living in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Methods: This is an associational study using cross-sectional data. We measured heights and weights of 523 children aged between 6 and 23 months in households receiving either a food ration consisting of rice, pulses, vegetable oil (362 children) or an e-voucher (161 children) that could be used to purchase 19 different foods. Data were also collected on the characteristics of their mothers and the households in which they lived, including household demographics, consumption and expenditure, coping strategies, livelihoods and income profiles, and access to assistance. Associations between measures of anthropometric status (height-for-age z scores, stunting, weight-for-height z scores, wasting, weight-for-age z scores and mid-upper arm circumference) and household receipt of the e-voucher were estimated using ordinary least squares regressions. Control variables included child, maternal, household and locality characteristics. The study received ethical approval from the Institutional Review Board of the International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington DC. Results: Household receipt of an e-voucher was associated with improved linear growth in children. This association is robust to the inclusion of maternal, household and location characteristics. The magnitude of the association is 0.38 SD (CI: 0.01, 0.74), and statistically significant at the five percent level. We cannot reject the null hypothesis that these associations differ by child sex. Receipt of an e-voucher is not associated with stunting when a full set of control variables are included. There is no association between receipt of e-vouchers and weight-for-length, weight-for-age or mid-upper arm circumference. We cannot reject the null hypothesis that these associations differ by child sex. Conclusions: In a humanitarian assistance setting, Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, household receipt of an electronic food voucher instead of a food ration is associated with improvements in the linear growth of children between 6 and 23 months but not in measures of acute undernutrition or other anthropometric outcomes. Our associational evidence indicates that transitioning from food rations to electronic food vouchers does not adversely affect child nutritional status.
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