Can Disaster Preparedness Change the Game? Mitigating the Health Impact of Disease Outbreaks

In times of epidemics and pandemics, depletion or diversion of health system resources from routine health care is common, posing serious threats to primary care. This paper estimates the contemporaneous and long-run effects of health disasters on maternal and child mortality in 111 countries during 2000-2019 using two-way fixed-effects and two-step system general method of moments frameworks. We also provide evidence that indicates how health system, macroeconomic, institutional, and structural characteristics can mitigate disaster effects. In low- and middle-income countries, health disasters increase maternal, under-5, and neonatal mortalities by 0.3%, 0.3%, and 0.2% instantaneously and by 35%, 80%, and 26% after one year, respectively. Our estimates show that disaster preparedness can prevent these effects. However, other mitigators, namely health emergency finance, universal health coverage, education, gender equality, and water, sanitation, and hygiene coverage, have greater impact.

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