A security dividend: Peacekeeping and maternal health outcomes and access

Theodora-Ismene Gizelis
Xun Cao
Journal article

Study demonstrates how peacekeeping operations have a positive impact on maternal health and women’s education.


There is strong evidence that a UN peacekeeping presence positively impacts women and maternal health. Such a presence leads to lower mortality rates, more maternal health services, as well as higher levels and years of women’s education. This is one of the first studies to explore the impact of peacekeeping on women’s well-being in the aftermath of conflicts.  It highlights that just as conflict affects women and men differently, the ‘quality’ of the subsequent peace also has gendered implications.


Using data from 45 African countries, the study compares changes in maternal mortality rates for countries with and without peacekeeping operations. It also examined within-country variations, comparing areas with or without peacekeeping deployments, in the DRC, Côte D’Ivoire and Liberia, using data on maternal health and education.

Key policy findings

The study found that the presence of peacekeeping leads to a slight increase in women receiving tetanus injections, and a greater percentage increase in antenatal care rates.  A peacekeeping presence is also associated with an increase in women’s education of around one year.  These, among other positive findings, are seen to arise from two complementary effects:

  1. Peacekeeping has a direct effect: the provision of medical and training facilities.

    UN peacekeeping mission often deploy quick impact projects (QIP) to win the hearts and minds of local populations.  QIPs focus on emergency provision rather than longer term development, supporting local medical facilities, and providing new resources to replenish what was lost during conflict. Many QIPs improve women’s wellbeing, typically targeting health, women’s empowerment, sanitation, rehabilitation of water pumps and building latrines. Under their wider mandate UN missions often establish medical camps to treat local communities, train locals in hygiene, and provide emergency medical relief in remote locations. 
  2. Peacekeeping also has an indirect effect: improvement in the overall level of security facilitates investment in infrastructure and women’s access to medical services and education.

    The indirect impact suggests that peacekeeping operations can create a ‘peacekeeping dividend’ through improving security. A signal that fighting has stopped enables investment in improved infrastructure such as medical facilities and schools, and safer access to such health care and education.  The ending of fighting also creates space for international and nongovernmental organizations, and private partners, to sponsor long-term medical programs.

Policy summary prepared by Tiril Hoye Rahn.