The Afya Consortium seeks to generate key evidence on public health threats in populations affected by crises, across different thematic areas including mortality, transmission of current and emerging epidemic threats, improved hygiene behaviour measures and interventions, and measurement of the indirect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on sexual and reproductive health, and on non-communicable diseases and mental health.
We have formed the Afya Consortium to work together collaboratively and equitable to conduct research among crisis-affected and displaced populations in the context of current and emergent epidemics. This programme is a multi-disciplinary partnership, between LSHTM in the UK; the Université Catholique de Bukavu in DRC, SIMAD University in Somalia, the Bridge Network Organisation in South Sudan, and the Youth Peer Education Network (Y-Peer) in Sudan. Our partnership is committed to coproduction principles and will adopt a decolonial approach to research and humanitarian action.
Crises due to armed conflicts, natural disasters and food insecurity result in excess mortality and mental health problems, especially when people are forcibly displaced.
Public health information plays a potentially key role in informing resource allocation and the design and implementation of humanitarian responses.
Epidemics are a particular threat in crisis settings and create specific information requirements. The COVID-19 pandemic’s health impact in crisis-affected populations is mostly unclear due to inadequate testing and surveillance for SARS-CoV-2, stigma and other societal factors, as well as limited measurement of the indirect effects of control measures on various thematic areas, including sexual and reproductive health, non-communicable diseases and mental health, for which programmatic adaptations are warranted.
The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of retrospective and prospective monitoring of mortality (already a common information gap in humanitarian responses) as a key metric of ultimate downstream impacts, and a basis for fitting realistic transmission dynamic models.
COVID-19 control has also relied heavily on non-pharmaceutical interventions, including hygiene behaviour change, a historically underfunded area with outstanding evidence gaps to fill.
Addressing the above evidence challenges must contend with a dearth of methodological expertise, shrinking humanitarian and researcher access to affected populations, and a post-colonial architecture that disempowers local actors.
Against these challenges, the Afya Consortium seeks to identify key capacity-strengthening and methodological innovation opportunities.
We have formed a consortium of academic and civil society organisations that proposes to work collaboratively and equitable to conduct research among crisis-affected and displaced populations in the context of COVID-19.
Our name, Afya, means ‘health’ in Arabic, Kiswahili and Somali.
Our consortium is constituted of five partners:
Université Catholique de Bukavu (UCB), DRC
Université Catholique de Bukavu (UCB) in the Democratic Republic of Congo was founded in 1989 with a community directed mission to provide appropriate solutions to the problems of Kivu region.
Its goals include:
1) to educate and train the youth in Bukavu and surrounding cities,
2) to promote research into understanding problems and searching for solutions in the Eastern Congo context, and
3) to contribute to the search for a becoming-better and well-being of Bukavu and surrounding cities populations.
Areas of strength in the institution include close link with the local community through outreach activities research expertise in post conflict agriculture, health related issues, mining governance and management aspects among others and openness to partnerships.
The UCB is currently implementing several research and development projects in partnership with national, regional and international institutions.
SIMAD University, Somalia
SIMAD University in Somalia was established in 1999 to fulfil a set of core objectives that include the provision of sustainable, quality education and research output of the highest standards.
As a research-intensive institution, SIMAD University is dedicated to the production of research outputs that are relevant to the needs of Somali society.
We have established various centres of excellence to meet the different needs of the university’s clients and partners. The Institute for Medical Research (IMR) was established to conduct medical research and identify diseases that are affecting the local community so that the necessary preventive and treatment endeavours are accomplished.
With notable faculty members from across the world, SIMAD University has more than 250 academic staff with different backgrounds and research experience to ensure that global best-practices and knowledge sharing is inclusive to all fields of study and research.
We judge our performance in the context of achievable but challenging benchmarks, thinking more globally and establishing strategic relationships and collaborations with both local and international partners.
The Bridge Network Organization, South Sudan
The Bridge Network Organization in South Sudan is an independent, non-profit research institution based in Juba and working in multiple areas across the whole country.
The Bridge Network is run by South Sudanese early career researchers, who formed the organization in 2017 with support from colleagues in London School of Economics and Political Science’s Conflict Research Programme (CRP) team.
The researchers of this organisation are drawn from different ethnicities in South Sudan and embedded in the communities in which they conduct the research across the country. Their main activities include but are not limited to supporting local research capacity, conducting field research and the dissemination of knowledge produced through publications, radio talk shows and seminars to the South Sudanese communities and government.
The Bridge Network’s ambition over the next 10 years is to become a knowledge hub in South Sudan and East Africa more widely.
The Youth Peer Education Network (Y-PEER), Sudan
The Youth Peer Education Network (Y-PEER) in Sudan is a youth-to-youth peer support network, established in 2008, with 10,000 registered volunteers present in 18 states across Sudan, including rural and conflict areas.
The Y-PEER Network’s work centres on a community-led approach, focused on local research needs, co-produced research, contextualized action and advocacy, and equitable co-learning.
The Y-PEER Network collaborate with LSHTM as part of the Sudan Covid-19 Research Group.
Y-PEER work under the umbrella of Adeela, a Sudanese civil society incubator NGO.
This project sits within the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine's Health in Humanitarian Crises Centre.
This programme of research and capacity strengthening runs from February 2022 to September 2026, focused on four key crisis-affected countries (the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan), but with flexibility to conduct data collection in new emergencies and other settings where existing collaborations facilitate this. This programme activities and studies are organised along three aims:
Aim 1: Establish or strengthen country-based, locally-led, multi-disciplinary humanitarian public health research units in the four key countries.
Aim 2: Explore novel cross-cutting methods based on community-led surveillance and data science methods.
Aim 3: Generate thematic evidence on the direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19 and other emergent public health threats, as per the following scientific objectives:
- Generate improved all-cause and cause-specific mortality estimates.
- Quantify transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other epidemic infections.
- Explore changes to hygiene behaviours, improve monitoring of hygiene behaviours and evaluate alternative behaviour change interventions.
- Quantify and describe COVID-19’s secondary impacts on sexual and reproductive health.
- Quantify COVID-19’s impacts on non-communicable disease burden and mental health and test novel care models.