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A female Y-PEER volunteer coaching a group of schoolgirls. Credit: Y-PEER Sudan

Sudan COVID-19 Research Group

A community-led, youth-powered movement to support the response to COVID-19 in Sudan through evidence generation, capacity building, and synthesizing local innovative mitigation strategies that translate into robust and effective policy. 

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The challenge

Sudan is bearing the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic against a backdrop of an escalating economic crisis, record flooding, communicable disease outbreaks, refugee influx and internal conflict. Modelling estimates predict that in an unmitigated scenario, one year after initial introduction, there could be 11-14 million symptomatic infections, 760 thousand hospitalizations, and 100-150,000 deaths. 

The collaboration

The COVID-19 Sudan Research Group is a collaboration between the Y-PEER Sudan programme – a network of 10,000 youth community volunteers living and working in diverse communities across Sudan – and a multidisciplinary group of Sudanese humanitarian and public health academics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicineand University of Khartoum. 

About us
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The Sudan COVID-19 Research Group brings together academics, researchers, community volunteers, civil society members, humanitarian workers and public health professionals from across the globe, working together to understand and sustainably support the COVID-19 response in Sudan through generating local, implementable evidence and data.  

Throughout the COVID-19 epidemic volunteer organizations have served as first responders providing both direct support to those needing to stay at home or self-isolating, as well as through campaigns to promote behavioural change. There is an urgent need to understand how to maximize the impact of these groups, especially among communities affected by humanitarian crisis. This is by understanding not only the acceptability and feasibility of strategies widely used in high income countries (e.g., lockdowns) but also by synthesising local adaptations and innovations that are most appropriate in a Sudanese context.  

The Group carries out priority, community-led qualitative studies and advocacy activities in order to understand which set of prevention activities – both within and outside households – are acceptable and feasible in a Sudanese context. The results from these studies are then used to provide policy options for decision makers, inform and implement Y-PEER multimedia campaigns, as well as to develop a community consultation decision-making tool that enables communities to adapt and innovate COVID-19 strategies at the most local level.

Who we are
Team Block
Maysoon Dahab

Maysoon Dahab

Assistant Professor at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Maysoon is an infectious disease epidemiologist and the co-director of the research group.  Over the past 19 years she has focused primarily on conducting operational health research programmes in low-income countries especially in crises affected settings. She has worked with Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Malawi, Save the Children USA in Ethiopia, The Aurum Institute for Health and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in South Africa, as well as the Sudan Federal Ministry of Health, and consults for various other organizations, primarily supporting refugee health operational research with UNCHR across the Middle East, East Africa and Asia.

Most recently, she has led research and advocacy efforts on mortality estimations during the 2018-2019 uprising In the Sudan. Currently within the group she focuses mostly on the conduct and promotion of a community led epidemiological research approach and how this can shape national and international epidemic preparedness and response. 

Nada Abdelmagid

Nada Abdelmagid

Assistant Professor in Humanitarian Health Practice at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Nada is a medical doctor and epidemiologist with extensive experience in public health programming in humanitarian settings. She filled a variety of technical advisory and programmatic roles, supporting design, delivery and monitoring of health programmes in Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Turkey among other crises. 

In her current role at the LHSTM, Nada is the lead researcher for RECAP’s Work Stream 1. Her work involves developing and testing real-time auditing tools to measure the appropriateness and performance of humanitarian public health and nutrition responses. 

Nada holds a Postgraduate Diploma and Master of Science in Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and is a member of the Global Health Cluster’s Public Health Information Services Task Team. She is currently undertaking her PhD at LSHTM.

Nada is a founding member of the Sudan COVID-19 Research Group.

Rahaf Abu Koura

Rahaf Abu Koura

Research fellow, Infectious Disease Epidemiology Department, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)

Rahaf is a pharmacist and a public health professional. Over the past 9 years, she has supported the implementation and development of various programmes and researches focusing on crisis-affected populations and humanitarian settings in Jordan, Lebanon and Sudan, Syria, and the UK. She has worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the British Red Cross (BRC), Our Hearts with You Foundation (OHWY), King’s College London (KCL) and different community-led organisations, focusing on nutrition in emergencies, mental health, antibiotic resistance, Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), education and COVID-19. She holds an MPH from the University of Leeds with the prestigious Chevening Scholarship Award from the UK Government.

In her current role at the LSHTM, Rahaf is supporting the community-led COVID-19 research and advocacy efforts in Sudan.

Abd Elhameed Ahmed

Abd Elhameed Ahmed

National Coordinator for the COVID-19 Research and Advocacy project in Sudan

Abd Elhameed is a MSc student at the University of Kordofan Faculty of Science, a former teaching and research assistant at University of Kordofan, and has been a member of Y-PEER Sudan since 2016 and a trainer since 2018. He is the current president of the Youth Mechanism for Child Protection in North Kordofan that works in the areas of reproductive health, Gender Based Violence, FGM and child marriage. He is also a member of the Youth Strategic Awareness Foundation, and a researcher for the Carter Centre in North Kordofan.

Aljaile Ahmed

Aljaile Ahmed

Co-founder of the Y-PEER Sudan network

Aljaili is a regional master trainer/instructional designer for Y-PEER in the Middle East and North Africa and is currently a MSc candidate in Sustainable Development at SOAS, University of London. He has extensive expertise in developing and implementing youth programs in several countries in the region, including how to incorporate young people’s inputs into policy and programming processes.

Israa Zain Alabdeen

Israa Zain Alabdeen

Former National Coordinator of the Y-PEER Sudan Network, current a member of Y-PEER Sudan Alumni Board

Isra a consultant for UNFPA in its current COVID-19 response and is a recent MSc graduate from the Development and Research Studies Institute at the University of Khartoum. Throughout her experience she has supported the implementation of different programs focused on women economic empowerment, BMI, protection and gender equality. With IFAD, Sudanese development call organisation NIDAA. She’s an advocate for youth participation and youth development and current supports Y-PEER engagement and capacity building programs in the area of research.

Nazik Nurelhuda

Nazik Nurelhuda

Associate Professor at the University of Khartoum

Nazik is a public health specialist, with over 10 years of working experience in public health practice and research in higher education, government sector and the World Health Organization. She holds a PhD in Community Dentistry from the University of Bergen (Norway), is a member of the Faculty of Public Health (Royal College of Physicians, UK) and Fellow of the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research Institute (USA). Nazik was able to branch out in her career from dental public health to the promotion and protection of general human health.

Reem Gaafar

Reem Gaafar

Communications consultant and non-resident Research Fellow at Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government

Reem has almost 15 years of experience across several countries as an ER clinician, public health policy researcher, lecturer, writer and filmmaker. She obtained her MPH from University of Liverpool and has consulted for several entities including the WHO country office in Khartoum, the Transitional Sudanese Government and Federal Ministry of Health, GHD/EMPHNET and different health communication campaigns in the MENA region. 

Her experience includes knowledge translation in written and audiovisual form to promote health and citizen empowerment, and her research interests include social determinants of health, social justice, and advancing the role of women in political change. She writes for several platforms, has over 150 published blogs, articles and book contributions, has directed and researched for several documentary films and videos, and was recently shortlisted for the prestigious Miles Moreland Foundation Scholarship awarded to published African writers. 

Salma A. E. Ahmed

Salma A. E. Ahmed

Independent Researcher

Salma is a public health professional and researcher from a medical background based in Sudan. She holds a MPhil in International Health from the University of Oslo, Norway and a MSc in Public and Tropical Health from the University of Medical Sciences and Technology in Sudan. Salma has more than 8 years of diverse research experience working on issues related to maternal and women health, HIV prevention, implementation of health projects and community-based interventions, policy making, and research with Sudan Federal Ministry of Health, national organizations, research institutions, and several UN agencies and NGOs. She is especially interested in qualitative research.

Research
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Since 2020, through a grant from UK Aid the group has been working on several research studies as part of the  Community-led COVID-19 mitigation in Sudan project. The studies include qualitative research and quantitative surveys carried out to measure a number of important disease and response parameters including COVID-19 infections and related deaths, and the changing levels of social mixing across the country.

Completed studies

A study of the cultural, contextual adaptations and innovations of an approach to shield high-risk individuals from SARS-COV-2/COVID-19 in Sudan.

Ongoing studies

Estimation of population mortality during a COVID-19 epidemic in Sudan – data analysis phase

Study objectives:

  1. Estimate the excess, crisis-attributable death rate and death toll during a period spanning the likely evolution of the COVID-19 epidemic in in a sample of urban and semi-urban centres of Sudan.
  2. Explore changes in burial practices during the same period and in these same geographical units.

Social mixing and social distancing in Sudanese communities – data collection phase

Study objectives:

  1. To explore social interaction patterns that could facilitate COVID-19 transmission among different age and gender groups, at different stages of the epidemic,
  2. To assess how community members and leaders perceive the risk from COVID-19 to themselves, their families and their communities
  3. To explore adherence to and barriers and enablers of personal physical distancing behaviours outside the home, and communal physical distancing measures  for COVID-19 prevention
  4. To elicit ideas for how individual and physical distancing strategies can be effectively adapted or communicated to promote adoption and sustained adherence.

Read more in our research agenda.

Advocacy
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Based on evidence generated from the community-led qualitative and quantitative studies, a set of advocacy tools have been developed targeting stakeholders and decision makers at both the national and the community levels.

At the national level, the group develops successive policy briefs which are submitted to and discussed with decision makers at the Federal and State ministries of health, aiming to inform the national response and provide updated evidence for action.

To date, three policy briefs have been developed and submitted based on study findings from Sudan-specific mathematical modelling research, as well as the team’s research into realistic interventions for COVID-19 mitigation in low-income settings:

  1. Policy brief on COVID-19 lockdown exit strategies
  2. Policy brief on the acceptability and feasibility of shielding in Sudanese contexts
  3. Policy brief on the second wave of COVID-19 in Sudan

The policy briefs have been presented to and discussed with the main decision-making bodies and stakeholders working on COVID-19 in Sudan, including the Supreme Committee for Health Emergencies, the Federal Ministry of Health COVID-19 coordinating committee, and around 30+ international donors, iNGOs, and UN agencies currently operating in Sudan.

At the community level work is ongoing with the Y-PEER Sudan youth network to develop a COVID-19 risk communication campaign in six illustrative communities throughout Sudan. We also aim to support evidence based community led COVID-19 decision making and prioritization in the localities participating in research activities.

Publications and media
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Publications

COVID-19 control in low-income settings and displaced populations: what can realistically be done?

Maysoon Dahab, Kevin van Zandvoort, Stefan Flasche, Abdihamid Warsame, Paul B. Spiegel, Ronald J Waldman, Francesco Checchi

Published 20 March 2020 on LSHTM News

Report 39 - Characterising COVID-19 epidemic dynamics and mortality under-ascertainment in Khartoum, Sudan

Oliver J. Watson, Nada Abdelmagid, Aljaile Ahmed, Abd Elhameed Ahmed Abd Elhameed, Charles Whittaker, Nicholas Brazeau, Arran Hamlet, Patrick Walker, James Hay, Azra Ghani, Francesco Checchi, Maysoon Dahab

Published 1 December 2020 on Imperial College London, MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis

Acceptability and feasibility of strategies to shield the vulnerable during the COVID-19 outbreak: a qualitative study in six Sudanese communities

Nada Abdelmagid, SalmaA.E. Ahmed, Nazik Nurelhuda, Israa Zainalabdeen, Aljaile Ahmed, Mahmoud Ali Fadlallah, Maysoon Dahab

medRxiv 2020.12.14.20248160; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.12.14.20248160

Media appearances and mentions

Why health workers in Sudan have been leaving their posts amid COVID-19

Published in Forbes, June 25, 2020

A continent where the dead are not counted

Published in The New York Times, February 26, 2021

COVID-19 in Africa: Why is the death rate so low?

Published in Sky News, March 7, 2021