Armed Conflict and Maternal Health in Sub-Saharan Africa

Armed Conflict and Maternal Health in Sub-Saharan Africa
Fertility torso from South Kivu, DRC. Photo: Julie Lunde Lillesæter/PRIO
Led by Gudrun Østby
Jul 2014 - Jun 2018

​​The odds that a woman in Sub-Saharan Africa will die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth is one in 20, compared to one in 6,250 in the developed world, resulting both from high fertility and maternal mortality rates. The majority of the countries in this region have experienced armed conflict since the end of the Cold War, and this poor health performance may in part be due to the detrimental effects of armed conflicts.  The research project Armed Conflict and Maternal Health in Sub-Saharan Africa led by Gudrun Østby, is one of five Young Research Talent projects which have received funds from the Research Council of Norway under the funding scheme for Independent Basic Research Projects (FRIPRO). 

The primary objective of the project is to improve our understanding of how conflict affects maternal health and how to improve maternal health in post-conflict societies, which is crucial for formulating humanitarian policies to improve women's health after conflict. 

We will study how civil war affects various health indicators as well as investigate what factors impact maternal health in post conflict societies.  We combine statistical analysis of secondary data, such as national surveys, with qualitative analysis through fieldwork in Burundi, the DR Congo, and Liberia. While many studies focus exclusively on the direct effects of specific interventions to improve maternal health such as e.g. family planning services and the provision of obstetrical care, we broaden the scope and also consider the more distant impact of political, socioeconomic, and cultural factors.  Furthermore, this project is the first systematic attempt to study determinants of maternal health in post-conflict societies at the local (subnational) level.

​In addition to Gudrun Østby, the project team includes PRIO researchers Henrik Urdal​, Andreas Forø Tollefsen, Chi Primus Che and Ragnhild Belbo, as well as Theodora-Ismene Gizelis from Essex University, Philip Verwimp from the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management, and Andreas Kotsadam from the Frisch Centre.

This project is placed under the umbrella of the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies (NCHS).​ 


GPS Policy Brief

Verwimp, Philip; Davide Osti & Gudrun Østby (2018) Forced Displacement, Migration and Pregnancy Risk: Micro-level evidence from Burundi, GPS Policy Brief, 2. Oslo: PRIO.

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Gizelis, Theodora-Ismene; Gudrun Østby & Henrik Urdal (2017) Maternal Health Care in the Time of Ebola: A Mixed-Method Exploration of the Impact of the Epidemic on Delivery Services in Monrovia, World Development. DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2017.04.027.
Østby, Gudrun; Ragnhild Nordås & Siri Aas Rustad (2016) Does Artisanal Mining Increase the Risk of Sexual Violence? Micro-level evidence from Eastern Congo, Quality in Primary Care 24(2): 77–80.
Nordås, Ragnhild; Siri Aas Rustad & Gudrun Østby (2016) Artisanal mining, conflict, and sexual violence in Eastern DRC, The Extractive Industries and Society 3(2): 475–484.
Urdal, Henrik; Patience Bulage; Primus Che Chi & Johanne Sundby (2015) Barriers in the Delivery of Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care in Post-Conflict Africa: Qualitative Case Studies of Burundi and Northern Uganda, PLOS ONE 10(9).
Shey Wiysonge, Charles; Pierre Ongolo-Zogo; Primus Che Chi; Nkengafac V. Motaze & Jean Serge Ndongo (2015) Government regulation of private health insurance, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015(4): 1–14.
Sundby, Johanne; Patience Bulage; Primus Che Chi & Henrik Urdal (2015) A qualitative study exploring the determinants of maternal health service uptake in post-conflict Burundi and Northern Uganda, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 15(18).
Devane, Declan; Odidika U.J. Umeora; Primus Che Chi; Johanne Sundby; Paul Spiegel & Henrik Urdal (2015) Improving maternal, newborn and women's reproductive health in crisis settings, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015(8): 1–26.
Urdal, Henrik; Johanne Sundby; Patience Bulage & Primus Che Chi (2015) Perceptions of the effects of armed conflict on maternal and reproductive health services and outcomes in Burundi and Northern Uganda: a qualitative study, BMC International Health and Human Rights 15(7): 1–15.

Book Chapter

Urdal, Henrik & Primus Che Chi (2015) War and Gender Inequalities in Health, in Gizelis , Theodora-Ismene; & Louise Olsson, eds, Gender, Peace and Security: Implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1325. Abingdon: Routledge (116–137).

Conference Paper

Belbo, Ragnhild; Gudrun Østby; Henrik Urdal; Andreas Forø Tollefsen; Andreas Kotsadam & Christin Marsh Ormhaug (2015) Armed conflict and maternal health care Micro-level evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa., presented at the Annual Convention of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, CA, 3–6 September.
Østby, Gudrun (2014) Violence Begets Violence: Armed Conflict and Domestic Sexual Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa, presented at SVAC (Sexual Violence and Armed Conflict) Workshop, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 2–3 September.

Related pages