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Strengthening the COVID-19 humanitarian response

As COVID-19 began to spread around the world, the humanitarian community worked to respond to the impact the pandemic would have on those already affected by crises, and the most vulnerable communities. The pandemic brought new challenges for researchers, innovators and humanitarian actors at local, national and global levels.

Here you can find out about our work supporting the humanitarian sector to respond to these challenges, including our latest learning and updates.

Particularly we focus on the outputs from our Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) programme’s Responsive Call on COVID-19, which launched in March 2020.

This page is continually updated as findings are received and our COVID-19 response work grows.

Reporting in Ouaga, 3, Burkina Faso. Photo credit: © Kalidou Sy, Fondation Hirondelle as part of R2HC-funded study: ‘Internally displaced persons, radio and COVID-19 related misinformation in Burkina Faso’.

COVID-19 research studies

We funded 15 humanitarian health research studies as part of our COVID-19 responsive funding call for proposals.

This was an urgent funding call for robust public health research proposals that will contribute to the effectiveness of the current humanitarian response to COVID-19 and increase the evidence base for future responses to similar infectious disease outbreaks.

The selected studies cover a diverse range of topics, outlined below by theme. Visit their study profiles to find out more including their findings, recommendations and outputs.

Social science behavioural research (nine studies)

1) COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip: community practices in Palestine refugee camps

Lead: University of Bath

2) Cash transfers and COVID-19: Experiences from Kiryandongo refugee settlement, Uganda

Lead: IDinsight

3) Knowledge, adherence and the lived experiences of refugees in COVID-19: A comparative assessment of urban and rural refugee settings in Uganda

Lead: Makerere University

4) Implementation of public health measures among internally displaced people during the COVID-19 pandemic in Francophone Africa: Pilot study of Mali

Lead: Faculty of Medicine & Odontostomatology (FMOS) of Bamako

5) Using radio and social media to address misinformation about COVID-19 amongst Internally Displaced Persons in Burkina Faso

Lead: University of Sheffield

6) Tracking adherence of older refugees to COVID-19 preventive measures in response to changing vulnerabilities: A multi-level, panel study to inform humanitarian response in Lebanon

Lead: Norwegian Refugee Council

7) Understanding the impact of misinformation on the uptake of and adherence to COVID-19 related public health measures in refugee and IDP settings across Kenya, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo

Lead: Busara Center for Behavioral Economics

8) Strengthening the humanitarian response to COVID-19 in Colombia

Lead: Brandeis University

9) Tracking Community Perceptions: A vital voice in curbing the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases

Lead: Oxfam

Locations: Lebanon & Zimbabwe


Innovative solutions (two studies)

1) Using Humanitarian Engineering to Solve Social Distancing Barriers in Refugee Humanitarian Interventions: A Cross-Country Comparison of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan (Conditional)

Lead: Michigan State University

Locations: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan

2) Monitoring and maintenance of handwashing devices during the COVID-19 crisis in a humanitarian context – the role of psychological ownership

Lead: Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology

Location: Bangladesh (Cox’s Bazar)

Humanitarian systems, coordination & evidence sharing (two studies)

1) Evaluating the impact of COVID-19 on multi-sectoral humanitarian needs

Lead: IMPACT Initiatives

Locations: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Ukraine

2) Gender-based violence (GBV) risk mitigation among non-protection humanitarian sectors in the context of COVID-19

Lead: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Location: Global

Health systems/healthcare delivery (one study)

1) Health system and community responses to COVID-19: a comparative study focused on Palestinian refugees in Gaza and Lebanon

Lead: Queen Margaret University

Location: OPT (Gaza), Lebanon

Predicting outbreaks/modelling (one study)

1) Dial-COVID: remote mitigation through telephone symptom surveillance in refugee settlements in Uganda

Lead: University of Washington

Get in touch

If you want to learn more about the COVID-19 responsive funding call or our R2HC studies, please get in touch with the team via email at

Tools & research to support COVID-19 response

See all the latest outputs, tools and evidence from our funded research studies to support the humanitarian sector’s response to COVID-19 on our Tools and Research page.


COVID-19 Research Snapshots

Research Snapshot COVID-19

Research Snapshot: The experiences of IDPs in Mali during COVID-19

Research Snapshot COVID-19

Research Snapshot: COVID-19 and Venezuelan migrants in Colombia

Research Snapshot COVID-19

Research Snapshot: Exploring refugee compliance to COVID-19 guidelines in Uganda

Research Snapshot COVID-19

Research Snapshot: IDPs radio and COVID-related misinformation in Burkina Faso

Research Snapshot COVID-19

Research Snapshot: Humanitarian COVID-19 safety protocols

Research Snapshot COVID-19

Research Snapshot: Listening to Communities Improves Outbreak Response

Research Snapshot COVID-19

Research Snapshot: The impacts of COVID-19 on humanitarian needs

Research Snapshot COVID-19

Research Snapshot: Trust and resilience during COVID-19

Research Snapshot Cash Transfers, COVID-19

Research Snapshot: Cash transfers & food security amid COVID-19

Research Snapshot COVID-19

Research Snapshot: COVID-19 in Gaza

Insights & updates

Read our COVID-19 blogs

You can find blogs on our Medium. Here we share insights from our team on funding rapid research in response to COVID-19, conducting research in a pandemic and research uptake in a COVID-19 world.

Watch our COVID-19 webinars
  1. How can community needs inform outbreak response in humanitarian settings?: This webinar in June 2022 provided insight into new evidence relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic in several humanitarian crisis settings. It focused on the priorities, needs and perceptions of people affected by humanitarian crises and how new evidence on their needs, and new tools for collecting this evidence, can be used and applied during outbreak response.
  2. The reality of COVID-19 in humanitarian settings: what have we learned and where do we go from here? : This 90 minute webinar in April 2021 brought together R2HC research teams who have conducted research in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Uganda, along with humanitarian practitioners and experts, to capture insights from their research studies and operational experiences.
  3. Pragmatism and innovation – collecting data in fragile situations during COVID-19: This webinar – which we co-hosted with the Institute for Global Health and Development at Queen Margaret University in October 2020 – shared practical lessons learned on data collection while conducting research in humanitarian and otherwise fragile situations, particularly during COVID-19.

Below you can find news from our funded studies and projects related to COVID-19, as well as relevant updates from our team.

Related News


15 research studies awarded to support COVID-19 response


Coronavirus (COVID-19): Resources for humanitarians


Event: Pragmatism and innovation – collecting data in fragile situations during COVID-19

COVID-19 Support Hub

As COVID-19 continues to impact the world, organisations and communities are dealing with challenges on an unprecedented level. Through our Support Hub we’ve been sharing some of the resources and guidance created across the humanitarian community, as well as relevant tools and resources from us.

Explore our Support Hub

Banner image: Handwashing station at a public latrine in the Rohingya refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo credit: Florian Haas, Austrian Red Cross. Provided as part of R2HC-funded study: ‘Psychological ownership and handwashing-device functionality during the COVID-19 crisis’.

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