Impact of desertification and land degradation on Colombian children

Int J Public Health. 2019 Jan;64(1):67-73.

doi: 10.1007/s00038-018-1144-0. Epub 2018 Jul 17.

by Jaramillo-Mejía MC1Chernichovsky D2.

1 Department of Management, Universidad Icesi, Cali, Colombia.

2 Department of Health Administration, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel.



Desertification affected more than 24% of Colombia’s land mass in 2012. The study aims to establish the singular impact of desertification on under-five mortality in Colombia.


Descriptive statistics and multivariate logit regressions are applied to the population of live births and under-five deaths in Colombia 2008-2011.


Children have a higher probability to die in rural communities and among mothers with low education who also have inferior health insurance. Controlling for those, desertification below about 50% of the land, lowers child mortality and increases it after that percentage. The impact of extraction of hydrocarbons is 12.45, metals 5.73 and others 4.91 times higher in municipalities with more than 50% of desertification territory. Rural areas with high desertification have 2.25 times higher risk of mortality due to malnutrition.


In the short term, when mines have less or no effect on desertification, living conditions may improve and reduce child mortality. In the long term, however, as desertification intensifies affecting the ecosystem, child mortality increases. More research is needed, and policy formulated accordingly.

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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