Strong effect of Ecuador's conditional cash transfer program on childhood mortality from poverty-related diseases: A nationwide analysis

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© 2019 The Author(s). Background: The mortality rate in children under 5 years old (U5MR) has decreased considerably in Ecuador in the last decade; however, thousands of children continue to die from causes related to poverty. A social program known as Bono de Desarrollo Humano (BDH) was created to guarantee a minimum level of consumption for families and to reduce chronic malnutrition and preventable childhood diseases. We sought to evaluate the effect of the BDH program on mortality of children younger than 5 years, particularly from malnutrition, diarrheal diseases, and lower respiratory tract infections. Methods: Mortality rates and BDH coverage from 2009 to 2014 were evaluated from the 144 (of 222) Ecuadorian counties with intermediate and high quality of vital information. A multivariable regression analyses for panel data was conducted by using a negative binomial regression model with fixed effects, adjusted for all relevant demographic and socioeconomic covariates. Results: Our research shows that for each 1% increase in BDH county coverage there would be a decrease in U5MR from malnutrition of 3% (RR 0.971, 95% CI 0.953-0.989). An effect of BDH county coverage on mortality resulting from respiratory infections was also observed (RR 0.992, 95% CI 0.984-0.999). The BDH also reduced hospitalization rates in children younger than 5 years, overall and for diarrhea. Conclusions: A conditional cash transfer program such as BDH could contribute to the reduction of mortality due to causes related to poverty, such as malnutrition and respiratory infections. The coverage should be maintained -or increased in a period of economic crisis- and its implementation strengthened.