“Returning Home after Civil War - Food security, nutrition and poverty among Burundian households” (2017). Journal of Development Studies (in press). with Philip Verwimp


Civil wars often force people to leave their homes. Displaced populations run higher risk in terms of disease, hunger and death, something that is well-documented. They leave their land, cattle and other assets behind for an uncertain existence in a refugee camp or depend on relatives or friends. But what happens when they return back home? This paper investigates the food security and poverty of formerly displaced households. Using the 2006 Core Welfare Indicator Survey for Burundi we compare their food intake and their level of expenses with that of their non-displaced neighbours. We test whether it is the duration of displacement that matters for current welfare or the time lapsed since returning. We use log-linear and ordered probit models as well as propensity score matching and an IV-approach to control by self-selection bias. We find that the individuals and households who returned home just before the time of the survey are worse off compared to those who returned several years earlier. It takes 8 to 10 years after return before the level of welfare of the displaced converges to that of the non-displaced. The duration of displacement seems not to matter. On average, the formerly displaced have 11% lower food expenses but only 8% lower calorie intake, showing that the formerly displaced consume relatively more high calorie products. The formerly displaced also report more children with a smaller size at birth. Despite international, government and NGO assistance, the welfare of recent returnees is lagging seriously behind in comparison with the local non-displaced populations.

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