Working in partnership with people affected by and responding to humanitarian crises around the world, we conduct interdisciplinary social science research of and for humanitarian responses to deepen and challenge understandings of how best to tackle the health impacts of humanitarian crises.
Our research focuses on key areas of humanitarian policy and practice
Our team comprises a number of interdisciplinary social scientists, including medical anthropologists, political scientists, health systems researchers, health economists and social epidemiologists.
The Medical Humanitarianism group brings together a diverse group of social scientists with a common interest in using interdisciplinary social science approaches to support, improve and—when necessary—critique responses to humanitarian crises. We work with people across the world who are affected by ongoing humanitarian crises, whose health is still shaped by ‘past’ crises, and/or who are particularly at-risk of experiencing humanitarian crises in the future. Our commitment to intersectional and interdisciplinary research provides a holistic perspective on how the multiple social, economic, political, and environmental dimensions of humanitarian crises impact on health and wellbeing.
Most of our work is organised through LSHTM’s Health in Humanitarian Crises Centre. Our research topics include:
- Humanitarian practice and policy
- Public authority, localised responses and local accountability in humanitarian contexts
- Women’s, children’s and adolescent health in humanitarian crisis settings
- Mental health in protracted displacement settings
- Health systems and health financing in refugee and mass displacement settings
- Health and security in settings affected by political conflict and violence
- Covid-19 responses in crisis-affected contexts, including research on direct and indirect impacts
- Legacies of humanitarian assistance
MH is connected to a number of other groups and centres at the school, including:
Our main research projects include:
- Local evidence use & accountability in humanitarian crises & epidemics
Local evidence use & accountability in humanitarian crises & epidemics
As part of the ‘Research capacity strengthening and knowledge generation to support preparedness and response to humanitarian crises and epidemics’ project (RECAP), GHD anthropologists are involved in a series of ongoing studies to understand how knowledge and evidence is produced, used and translated within humanitarian contexts, including how this relates to the concept of localisation.
RECAP-funded studies that address these themes include:
- Epidemic decision-making in Bangladesh/Cox’s Bazaar settlements (Diphtheria) and Somalia (COVID-19)
- The lives & livelihoods of displaced healthcare workers in Uganda
- Generating local expertise for sleeping sickness diagnosis in South Sudan
- Partnership functioning to combine research and response within the UK’s public health rapid support team
- Babies born too soon in humanitarian settings: a case study of Lebanon
- Framing vernacular Evidence? evidence-Informed humanitarian assistance in the localisation of aid era
- Lessons learnt from epidemic modelling for decision-making at LSHTM in the COVID-19 response
Resourses & publications
Research Evidence in the Humanitarian Sector: A Practice Guide. Blanchet, K., Allen, C., Breckon, J., Davies, P., Duclos, D., Jansen, J., Mthiyane, H. & Clarke, M. 2018. London, UK: Evidence Aid, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Nesta (Alliance for Useful Evidence).
COVID-19 in the Context of Forced Displacement: Perspectives from the Middle East and East Africa. Duclos, D. & Palmer, J. 2020. Social Science & Humanitarian Action Platform.
Contested legitimacy for anthropologists involved in medical humanitarian action: experiences from the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola epidemic. Lees, S., Palmer, J., Procureur, F. & Blancket, K. 2020. Anthropology & Medicine, 27(2).
Sensing sleeping sickness: local symptom-making in South Sudan. Palmer, J.J. 2019. Medical Anthropology, 39(6).
Understanding the Role of the Diagnostic 'Reflex' in the Elimination of Human African Trypanosomiasis. Palmer JJ; Jones C; Surur EI; Kelly AH. 2020. Tropical Medicine & Infectious Disease.
- Health financing in humanitarian contexts
Also part of the ‘Research capacity strengthening and knowledge generation to support preparedness and response to humanitarian crises and epidemics’ project (RECAP), GHD staff are conducting research on health financing in humanitarian contexts, in particular:
- examining access and affordability of care for refugees and vulnerable host populations in Northern Uganda
- investigating the effect of the Ebola outbreak on access to maternal and child health services and the affordability of health care in Sierra Leone
- working with International Red Cross (IRC) to examine how costs of cash transfer programmes vary across contexts and according to programme design variations.
- building capacity in health systems and economics methods
Makhani LA, Moran V, Sadique Z, NS, Revill P, Roberts B (2020) Examining the Use of Economic Evaluations in Health-Related Humanitarian Programmes in Low- And Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review Health Policy and Planning, Mar 1;35(2):210-218.
Neha S. Singh, Antonia Dingle, Alia H. Sabra, Jocelyn DeJong, Catherine Pitt, Ghina R. Mumtaz, Abla M. Sibai, Sandra Mounier-Jack (2020) Health care financing arrangements and service provision for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, In: Bozorgmehr K, Roberts B, Razum O, Biddle L (eds) Health Policy and Systems Responses to Forced Migration, Springer.
- Syria Research Group
The Syria Research Group (SyRG) is a team of primarily Syrian health system researchers based at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the National University of Singapore Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health (SSHSPH).
SyRG focuses on conducting rigorous academic research on issues facing Syria and the region, while building collaborative relationships with in-country and diaspora Syrian researchers and professionals.
We want SyRG to be an open platform for collaborative research capacity development, equitable research partnerships, and sharing of localised knowledge. We strive to develop equitable partnerships and participatory, inclusive research projects.
Resources & publications
Douedari, Y., Alhaffar, M., Al-Twaish, M., Mkhallalati, H., Alwany, R., Ibrahim, N.B.M., Zaseela, A., Horanieh, N., Abbara, A., Howard, N., 2020. “Ten years of war! You expect people to fear a ‘germ’?”: A qualitative study of initial perceptions and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic among displaced communities in opposition-controlled northwest Syria. Journal of Migration and Health 1–2, 100021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmh.2020.100021
Douedari, Y., Alhaffar, M., Duclos, D. et al. ‘We need someone to deliver our voices’: reflections from conducting remote qualitative research in Syria. Confl Health 15, 28 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13031-021-00361-w
- Bridging Research and Action in Conflict Settings for the Health of Women and Children (BRANCH Consortium)
The BRANCH Consortium is an academic research enterprise aimed at improving evidence and guidance for effective action on women’s and children’s health and nutrition in conflict settings. In addition to an international steering committee of co-investigators (including Neha Singh/LSHTM), BRANCH partners and collaborators include local researchers based in conflict-affected countries, local and international humanitarian NGOs, and a number of UN agencies. We collaborate with other research and global advocacy initiatives and are supported by non-profit, bilateral, and UN-based sponsors.
Karl Blanchet (honorary staff)
The BRANCH Consortium is committed to publishing its research findings to help promote the further development of a rigorous evidence base to inform guidance and effective action on sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and nutrition in conflict settings.
Publications to date include:
Singh, NS; Ataullahjan, A; Ndiaye, K; Das, JK; Wise, PH; Altare, C; Ahmed, Z; Sami, S; Akik, C; Tappis, H; Mirzazada, S; Garcés-Palacio, IC; Ghattas, H; Langer, A; Waldman, RJ; Spiegel, PB; Bhutta, ZA; Blanchet, K; BRANCH Consortium Steering Committee. Delivering health interventions to women, children, and adolescents in conflict settings: what have we learned from ten country case studies?. The Lancet, (2021).397 (10273):533-542.
Akik, C; Semaan, A; Shaker-Berbari, L; Jamaluddine, Z; Saad, GE; Lopes, K; Constantin, J; Ekzayez, A; Singh, NS; Blanchet, K; DeJong, J; Ghattas, H. Responding to health needs of women, children and adolescents within Syria during conflict: intervention coverage, challenges and adaptations. Conflict and Health, (2020).14 (1).
Ataullahjan, A; Gaffey, MF; Sami, S; Singh, NS; Tappis, H; Black, RE; Blanchet, K; Boerma, T; Langer, A; Spiegel, PB; Waldman, RJ; Wise, PH; Bhutta, ZA; Investigating the delivery of health and nutrition interventions for women and children in conflict settings: a collection of case studies from the BRANCH Consortium. Conflict and Health, (2020).14 (1).Lancet Series on women’s and children’s health in Conflict Settings (2021) (https://www.thelancet.com/series/conflict-health) and accompanying policy briefs (https://www.branchconsortium.com/resources)
BMJ Collection (2020): https://www.bmj.com/branch Conflict and Health Collection (2020): https://www.biomedcentral.com/collections/branchconsortium
- Supporting government and partners in health system strengthening for better mental health of Syrian refugees and host communities in Lebanon (GOAL)
GOAL is a three-year research project which began in February 2020 with funding from the United Kingdom’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). It is a partnership between the National Mental Health Program of Lebanon (Ministry of Public Health), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, ABAAD, St Joseph’s University of Beirut, War Child Holland (Research and Development Department and War Child Lebanon), and Positive Negatives. GOAL applies a co-production approach, with key stakeholders centrally involved in the project design and implementation.
The aim of GOAL is to support government and partners in strengthening the ability of health systems to meet the mental health needs of refugee and host communities affected by protracted displacement, focusing on Lebanon. GOAL consists of four Work Packages focusing on governance (transparency, accountability, and integrity), governance (participation), and financing.
- UK Public Health Rapid Support Team
The UK-PHRST, funded by UK aid from the Department of Health and Social Care, supports low- and middle-income countries in investigating and responding to disease outbreaks and conducts research to improve our response to future epidemics.
The UK-PHRST’s social science team works on a number of projects and themes, including the Social Science in Humanitarian Action Platform, epidemic preparedness, how to improve outbreak responses, health seeking behaviour for epidemic prone diseases, the Partnership for Evidence Based Responses to COVID-19, and on rumours during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hana Rohan, Social Science Lead, UK-PHRST
Alexandra Fehr, Social Science Research Fellow, UK-PHRST
Rohan, Hana; McKay, Gillian; (2020) The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: why there is no 'silver bullet'. Nature Immunology, 21 (6). pp. 591-594. ISSN 1529-2908 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41590-020-0675-8
Rohan, H., McKay, G., Khosia, B. (2019). “Working in silos doesn’t work for outbreak response”: Localising social science response efforts in West Africa. PLOS Channels. https://collectionsblog.plos.org/working-in-silos-doesnt-work-for-outbreak-response-localising-social-science-response-efforts-in-west-africa
Rohan, H., Bausch, D., Blanchet, K. (2018). Action not Justification: How to use social science to improve outbreak response. PLOS Ebola Blog. https://blogs.plos.org/collections/action-not-justification-how-to-use- social-science-to-improve-outbreak-response/
- Pandemic Preparedness: local and global concepts and practices in tackling disease threats in Africa
The research examines ‘preparedness from below’ – the understandings and practices of communities through which they anticipate and manage disease threats such as COVID-19 on a daily basis. We aim to identify entry points and pathways for connecting global, intermediate and local ‘assemblages’ in ways that build on, enhance and support the legitimacy and agency of communities’ ‘preparedness from below’. Ethnographic fieldwork is being conducted in Sierra Leone and Uganda.
Parker, M., MacGregor, H and Akello, G 2020. COVID-19, public authority and enforcement. Medical Anthropology. https://doi.org/10.1080/01459740.2020.1822833
Baluku, M., Akello, G., Parker, M and Grant, C 2020. How the ‘disease of the radio’ is affecting people on the Uganda-DRC border. https://www.ids.ac.uk/opinions/covid-19-how-the-disease-of-the-radio-is-affecting-people-on-the-uganda-drc-border/
MacGregor, H., Leach, M., Wilkinson, A and Parker, M. 2020. Covid-19 – a social phenomenon requiring diverse expertise. https://www.ids.ac.uk/opinions/covid-19-a-social-phenomenon-requiring-diverse-expertise/
Partner organisations include:Institute of Development Studies, Sussex Centre Régional de Recherche et de Formation à la prise en charge de Fann (CRCF, Senegal) Institut de recherche pour le développement Njala University
- Social Science in Humanitarian Action Platform (SSHAP)
The Social Science in Humanitarian Action Platform (SSHAP) focuses on the social dimensions of emergency responses (https://www.socialscienceinaction.org/).
Building on the Ebola Response Anthropology Platform, the Platform works on emergencies that relate to health, conflict or the environment. The aim is to support responses which are effective, adaptive, contextually informed, sensitive to vulnerabilities and power relations, planned in consultation with affected communities and local institutions, and based on social and interdisciplinary science and evidence.
SSHAP involves a partnership between the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex; Anthrologica & LSHTM (Melissa Parker, Diane Duclos, Shelley Lees, Jennifer Palmer, Hana Rohan).
Duclos, D., Palmer, J. (2020). COVID-19 in the Context of Forced Displacement: Perspectives from the Middle East and East Africa (briefing and background paper)
MacGregor, H., Leach, M., Tshangela, A., Hrynick, T., Lees, S., Niederberger, E., Parker, M., Lorenzo, S.R., Rohan, H., Schmidt-Sane, M., Tulloch, O and Wilkinson, A. 2021. One size does not fit all: adapt and localise for effective, proportionate and equitable responses to COVID-19 in Africa. Family Medicine and Community Health 9 (2): e000709.
- The Politics of Return: Return and Reintegration of refugees and IDPs in Central and East Africa
This multi-disciplinary, collaborative project analyses how refugees, internally-displaced persons and former combatants negotiate and experience ‘return’ and ‘reintegration’. Drawing on history, anthropology and political science, the project focuses on the everyday experiences of return; the relationship between return and ‘cycles of violence’; and the multiple ways in which return influences governance and public authority across diverse settings.
The project includes long term follow-up research with former combatants from the Lord’s Resistance Army, northern Uganda, as well as research with children born of war i.e. children who returned from life with the LRA with their mothers more than a decade ago, and whose fathers were LRA commanders.
This project has received funds from the AHRC (2017-2019), RECAP (2017-Present) and CPAID (2017-Present)
- Parker, M., Fergus, C., Brown, C., Atim, D., Ocitti, J., Atingo, J and Allen, T (in press). Legacies of Humanitarian Neglect: Long Term Experiences of Children who Returned from the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. Conflict and Health.
- Torre, C., Mylan, S., Parker, M and Allen, T 2020. Is promoting war trauma a good idea? Anthropology Today 35 (6): 3-6.
- Allen, T., Atingo, J., Atim, D., Ocitti, J., Brown, C., Torre,C., Fergus, C., Parker, M. 2020. What happened to children who returned from the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda? Journal of Refugee Studies, 33 (4): 639-662,