Mira Dewan, University of Cambridge

Association between maternal exposure to intimate partner violence and child malnutrition: Evidence from LMICs and northern Uganda

Background: Globally, some of the highest rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) are found in post-conflict northern Uganda. IPV can lead to detrimental outcomes not only on maternal health, but also child health, including child growth and nutrition. As some of the most widely cited health outcomes of IPV are simultaneously established risk factors leading to child malnutrition, there is reason to believe that there are biological and/or behavioural pathways. A few studies have previously examined the link between IPV and child malnutrition, but findings are inconclusive, and more research is needed to understand context-specific underlying mechanisms, particularly in developing countries. 

Aim: Given the high prevalence of IPV and child malnutrition in post-conflict northern Uganda, this study aims to a) examine the types of IPV associated with child malnutrition; b) determine the impact of IPV on maternal nutrition-sensitive behaviour; c) examine the role of maternal depression as a mediator between IPV, nutrition-sensitive behaviour and child malnutrition. In addition, given the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 and stringent lockdown measures in Uganda, this study will be embedded in the context of the global pandemic with seeking to understand how COVID-19 and its related stressors have impacted the risk of IPV, women’s feeling of safety, and access to services. A systematic review on the association between IPV and child malnutrition in all low-and-middle-income-countries (LMICs) will inform the development of the study.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey will be conducted in collaboration with Food for the Hungry International  and Gulu University, Uganda. Using an adjusted version of the Evidence for Better Lives  Mothers Questionnaire, the study will interview 300 mothers with children age 0-5 in Kitgum and Lamwo, northern Uganda. Using structural equation modelling, various contextual mediators will be tested.

Outcomes/significance: This interdisciplinary project, aligned with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda (Goals 2 and 5) will enlighten the pathway between IPV, mental health, and child development:  Evidence aims to inform integration of not only mental health, but also IPV-related interventions, into traditional global health and nutrition programmes. Finally, findings of this study related to the impact of COVID-19 on the risk of domestic violence aims to inform future crisis response interventions and policy programmes to protect women and children.