In unexpected humanitarian crises, such as infectious disease outbreaks or natural disasters, there is often a lack of evidence or knowledge about the best interventions to address specific public health needs. Real-time research enables us to generate findings that can immediately inform the humanitarian response.
We constantly monitor humanitarian crises. Through our Responsive Research Mechanism we rapidly contract research teams to investigate priority evidence gaps as a crisis unfolds.
The research we fund in this way delivers real-time findings that directly input into the health response. It can also be vital in informing responses to similar future crises.
"People have a right to quality humanitarian response that is informed by robust evidence." - our guiding principle #2
During the West Africa Ebola epidemic in 2014, we launched a call for short-term research to address an urgent need for better evidence and solutions. We funded eight studies, testing innovative interventions and approaches. The findings contributed directly to the effectiveness of the unfolding Ebola response.
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) developed the Anthropology Platform – an online resource portal offering easy-to-understand information about the socio-cultural, historical, economic and political dimensions of Ebola. This platform was ground-breaking. Never before had social science research addressing the influence of human behaviour factors been used to improve the response to a significant infectious disease outbreak. An Epidemic Response Anthropology Platform has now been funded to fulfil this purpose in future epidemics.
In Sierra Leone, Umea University designed specific messages to promote Ebola treatment-seeking behaviour. Working with the Ministry of Health and national Medical Research Centres, messages covering 14 broad topics were developed and rolled out across the country.
To support predictions of the spread of the epidemic and to guide its control, University of Oxford developed high-resolution maps using existing data on human mobility. The maps were continuously updated as data became available. At the same time, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) developed a mathematical modelling tool to look at the transmission dynamics of Ebola. This was used to project the future course of the epidemic and estimate the impact of alternative control approaches.
We funded the development of two diagnostic tools: University of Westminster’s point of need diagnostic device and Pasteur Institute Dakar’s ‘lab-in-a-suitcase’. Lab-in-a-suitcase is a mobile lab for use in remote and rural areas by local teams to test for Ebola by identifying active virus infection in unprocessed blood. It was subsequently used in the Democratic Republic of Congo to support the 2018 Ebola crises and to detect other haemorrhagic fevers, as well as in the diagnosis of venomous animal bite injuries and in pharmaceutical research.
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