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 equitably 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.
Some of our Y-PEER colleagues are:
Co-founder of the Y-PEER Sudan network and co-founder of the Sudan Research Group.
Aljaile is an expert in adolescent and youth development with more than 14 years' experience in this field. He is also a regional trainer for Y-PEER in the Middle East and North Africa. He has an MSc in Sustainable Development from SOAS, University of London.
He has extensive expertise in developing and implementing youth programmes in several countries in the region, including how to incorporate young people’s inputs into policy and programming processes.
Israa Zain Alabdeen Magzoob
Co-founder of The Sudan Research Group, Former National Coordinator for Y-PEER Sudan, and currently a member of the Y-PEER Sudan Consultancy Board.
Israa is an MSc student at The Development and Research Studies Institute at the University of Khartoum. She has supported the implementation of different development programmes focused on youth engagement, public health, women's economic empowerment, protection and gender equality working with Y-PEER, UNFPA, IFAD and a Sudanese development organisation, NIDAA.
She is an advocate for youth participation and youth development, and in her current role, she supports Y-PEER engagement and capacity-building programmes.
Omamah is a public health specialist who is currently an MSc student in epidemiology field. She has worked in several programmes focusing on areas of public health, such as health promotion, women's and children's health, nutrition, WASH and environmental health.
She has worked with the Sudanese Ministry of Health and the Unit to Combat Violence Against Women, as well as SYPW, Go Green, SCADA, and WFPA.
In her current role at the Sudan Research Group, she works as a project coordinator.
This project sits within the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine's Health in Humanitarian Crises Centre.
Our current main research programme is supported by the US Centers for Disease Control, with the title: “COVID-19 and related public health threats in populations affected by crises: a multi-disciplinary, collaborative research programme”.
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.
Our name, Afya, means ‘health’ in Arabic, Kiswahili and Somali. Our logo was designed by Marwa Mubarak from the Y-PEER Network in Sudan, and the logo represents the countries where the consortium partners are based.
Our partnership is committed to coproduction principles and will adopt a decolonial approach to research and public health and humanitarian action; with an emphasis on empowering local actors.
At our consortium partners’ meeting in July 2022, we agreed to establish a consortium Steering Committee composed of two representatives from each partner, with the expectation that at least one of the representatives will be female, and each partner has equal voting power. The LSHTM Research Manager will attend in an advisory / operational capacity, in addition to the two LSHTM representatives.
The Steering Committee will take responsibility for overall decisions about the programme including budget allocation per organization, strategic direction, allocation of central funding pools for research co-production and learning and development activities.
The Afya Consortium aims to identify crucial opportunities for methodological innovation in monitoring threats to public health, as well as working with communities to strengthen their capacity in doing so.
The Afya Consortium was formed to work together collaboratively and equitably to conduct this research. It 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.
We are committed to equitable partnerships principles and will adopt a decolonial approach to research and humanitarian action, through active sharing of power and decision-making.
Read more about the launch of the Afya Consortium and its kick off meeting in Nairobi this July.