Disease in African cities
Our research focuses on the impact of infrastructure growth in African countries which lies in the field of development economics. We try to understand how useful it is to build infrastructure such as roads in African countries based on real-world data. It is a relevant question because roads are the blood veins of modern society. Roads connect cities, towns and the country side; roads facilitate the movement of people and goods and provide a transport network in extreme conditions. After an earthquake, roads are the first infrastructure to amend such that emergency materials can be delivered in time. However, the road density is still quite low for some African countries from which the poorest population may suffer. More empirical evidence is needed to support the decision of resource allocation.
We compare the health condition of urban children and rural children with different levels of road access. Our results show that, in general, urban children who are close to roads are taller and healthier than rural children living in remote areas. It is in line with our expectation because urban areas have access to more resources. However, this observation does not hold under one condition: disease. Urban children show a strange vulnerability under extreme weather while rural children are refrained from that. We find out that when the weather is abnormally warm and rainy, the infectious diseases find their chance to spread in population clusters. Malaria, an illness spread by mosquitos and flourishing in hot and wet environments, causes clinical features such as fever, chills, vomiting and in the worst case fatal danger. The more condensed the city is, the more vulnerable the children are facing infectious diseases under fostering weather. This is a downside of infrastructure which brings people together.
In 2015, the United Nations published that malaria has been significantly reduced in large populations, which fulfilled the target of the Millennium Development Goal. Our research adds a reminder to the situation: under certain weather conditions, even the well-equipped cities should be warned about the danger of malaria especially for young children.
Yuan Gu is PhD candidate at the department of Spatial Economics.