Shaping the future: Our strategy for research and innovation in humanitarian response.

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We are funding eight new humanitarian health research studies, which were submitted under our 2020 Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) Annual Funding Call.

This call received 156 eligible research proposals submitted at the expression of interest stage, with 33 being invited to prepare full proposals.

This was the first year that we introduced a Formative research stream. This stream invited applications of up to £100,000 to complete research that has the intention to inform a later larger study. The three Formative studies funded will address collecting perinatal health data, improving the quality of primary healthcare, and somatic and emotional distress among Syrian refugees.

From violence against healthcare workers in Iraq, to handwashing in refugee camps, and fertility decision making in Bangladesh and Yemen – this year the funded studies represent an exciting mix of health topics and humanitarian settings. The studies further make use of a range of mixed method approaches including participatory action research, participatory citizen science, qualitative interviews, and randomised controlled trials. As with previous years, each of the research teams are comprised of academics and humanitarians bringing expertise from both the countries of study and around the world.

The eight funded studies summarised below reflect our ambition to fund high-quality research with the greatest potential for impact, to improve health outcomes for some of the most vulnerable people affected by humanitarian crises.

Learn more about the STUDIES


Comparing Primary health care delivery models in conflict affected settings

Reach Out Cameroon, University of Cambridge, University of Buea, University of Maiduguri, Herwa Community Development Initiative

In the protracted crises settings of Northwest and Southwest Cameroon and Northeast Nigeria, this study aims to explore how primary health care (PHC) models are selected by humanitarian organisations using a mixed methods approach. The study will engage stakeholders to design a framework that guides selection of different PHC models in humanitarian settings. This will include developing a PHC quality toolkit for use by humanitarian organisations.

Addressing data gaps on causes of perinatal deaths in humanitarian settings using verbal and social autopsy methods

The University of Sydney, Afghanistan National Public Health Institute, JHPIEGO, World Health Organisation

This study aims to examine the feasibility of using verbal and social autopsy (VA/SA) to establish the causes of perinatal deaths (stillbirth and early neonatal deaths) in Afghanistan. The study has three components: implementing VA/SA by community-based healthcare workers to establish probable causes of perinatal death; validating these causes of death through comparison to an obstetrician’s identified cause of death; and conducting a qualitative study to explore the integration of VA/SA into routine practice and health information systems.

Life stress and resilience: an intervention for improved functioning among crisis-affected adults

DIGNITY- Danish Institute Against Torture, University of Amsterdam, Wchan Trauma Rehabilitation and Training Centre, Sulaimani Polytechnic University

This study will culturally adapt the Life Stress and Resilience (LSR) intervention for addressing somatic and emotional distress among adult Syrian refugees. This is a group based MHPSS intervention which is intended to be delivered by non-professionals in humanitarian settings. This study will finalise the LSR manual, develop a new tool for measuring cultural concepts of distress, and conduct a pilot study of the LSR intervention to assess its feasibility and acceptability among Syrian refugees in Iraq.


Violence against health care workers: understanding context through citizen science and measuring de-escalation training effectiveness

Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, ICRC, University of Bukavu, Mustainsiriya University

Using a participatory citizen science approach, this study aims to identify causes of individual-level violence against healthcare workers to inform an intervention – tailored violence de-escalation training and a code of conduct. The effectiveness of both components will be assessed in primary healthcare settings in eastern DRC and in large secondary hospitals in urban Iraq. The study will also conduct an economic evaluation to determine the affordability of the intervention.

Early marriage and fertility decision making among conflict-affected and displaced adolescents

Johns Hopkins University, BRAC University, Community Partners International, Building for Development

This study will understand how conflict and displacement affect demand for early-marriage and childbearing, and how this in turn affects the demand for and use of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services among refugee and IDP adolescents aged 15-24 in Bangladesh and Yemen. A mixed methods approach aims to determine prevalence of child marriage in each setting, factors that influence family planning and the impact of key variables on fertility intentions and outcomes.

Effectiveness study of the Jengu handwashing unit to increase handwashing with soap among crisis affected populations

British Red Cross, African Population and Health Research Centre, LSHTM, Arup, IFRC, Kenya Red Cross, Uganda Red Cross, Field Ready

The study objective is to increase handwashing with soap among crisis affected populations by providing a handwashing facility which will make the behaviour more convenient and desirable to practice. The research will build evidence on the acceptability, usability, and durability of the Jengu handwashing facility, as well as on the sustainable local production of the facility in Kenya and Uganda.

Caring for carers: a psychosocial supervision intervention to improve the quality and sustainability of MHPSS services in humanitarian contexts

University of New South Wales, Koc University, Dhaka University, Hope Revival Organisation, Cox’s Bazaar MHPSS Working Group

This study will examine the impact of an online video-based clinical supervision intervention on the wellbeing of local mental health practitioners in Syrian and Rohingya displaced communities. It will also assess the impact of the intervention on service quality by measuring beneficiary perceived service satisfaction, acceptability, and appropriateness of MHPSS services.

Islamic Trauma Healing: a scalable, community-based programme for war and refugee trauma

University of Washington Foundation, Case Western Reserve University, Somaliland Youth Development and Voluntary Organisation, University of Burao

Islamic Trauma Healing (ITH) is a manualised mosque-based, non-specialist led group intervention that combines Islamic principles with empirically supported treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Through a randomised controlled trial this research will evaluate the use of ITH with 200 trauma-exposed men and women in Somaliland. The study will explore the impact of ITH on mental health outcomes, train-the-trainer outcomes, and intervention costs.

Profiles for these studies will be available soon

Photo credit: Shafiur Rahaman, EAWAG

Funding for this research is made possible through our Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) programme, which is funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Wellcome, and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

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