Sustained Government Engagement Improves Subsequent Pandemic Risk Reporting In Conflict Zones
By Dotan Haim, Florida State University, Nico Ravanilla, University of California, San Diego and Renard Sexton, Emory University
Community information sharing is crucial to a government’s ability to respond to a disaster or a health emergency, such as a pandemic. In conflict zones, however, citizens and local leaders often lack trust in state institutions and are unwilling to cooperate, risking costly delays and information gaps. We report results from a randomized experiment in the Philippines regarding government efforts to provide services and build trust with rural communities in a conflict-affected region. We find that the outreach program increased the probability that village leaders provide time-sensitive pandemic risk information critical to the regional Covid-19 Task Force by 20%. The effect is largest for leaders who, at baseline, were skeptical about government capacity and fairness and had neutral or positive attitudes towards rebels. A test of mechanisms suggests that treated leaders updated their beliefs about government competence and shows that neither security improvement nor project capture by the rebels are primary drivers. These findings highlight the important role that government efforts to build connections with conflict-affected communities can play in determining public health outcomes during times of national emergencies.