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Introduction to collection: confronting the challenges of health research in humanitarian crises

  • Mistry, Amit S.1
  • Kohrt, Brandon A.2
  • Beecroft, Blythe1
  • Anand, Nalini1
  • Nuwayhid, Iman3
  • 1 Fogarty International Center, U.S. National Institutes of Health, 16A Center Drive, MSC 6710, Bethesda, MD, 20892, USA , Bethesda (United States)
  • 2 George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, DC, USA , Washington (United States)
  • 3 American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon , Beirut (Lebanon)
Published Article
Conflict and Health
BioMed Central
Publication Date
May 14, 2021
DOI: 10.1186/s13031-021-00371-8
Springer Nature


BackgroundHumanitarian crises, such as armed conflict, forced displacement, natural disasters, and major disease outbreaks, take a staggering toll on human health, especially in low-resource settings. Yet there is a dearth of robust evidence to inform the governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other humanitarian organizations on how to best respond to them. The Fogarty International Center of the U.S. National Institutes of Health commissioned a collection of Research in Practice articles that highlights the experiences of scientists conducting research in the context of humanitarian crises. Unlike traditional research papers, the case analyses in this collection go beyond what research was completed and focus on why the research was important and how it was conducted in these extremely challenging settings.DiscussionThe papers selected for this collection span 27 countries, cover a broad range of humanitarian crises, and discuss a wide variety of disease and health risk factors. Of the 23 papers in the collection, 17 include an author from the affected country and five papers were authored by humanitarian NGOs. Throughout the collection, 43% of the authors were from low- and middle-income countries.Across the collection, some general themes emerged that are broadly applicable. Importantly, there is a clear need for more, high-quality research to address evidence gaps. Community engagement, already a key element to global health research, was highlighted as especially important for research involving populations dealing with severe trauma and disruption. Partnership with humanitarian actors, including local governments, local and international NGOs, and UN agencies, was found to be a critical strategy as well.ConclusionA variety of audiences will find this collection useful. Global health educators can utilize papers to facilitate discussion around public health practice and equitable partnerships, among other topics. Humanitarian response organizations may use the collection to consider how research may inform and improve their work. Global health researchers, funders, and other stakeholders may use the collection to stimulate dialogue around key scientific research questions and better appreciate the importance of conducting research in humanitarian crises in the context of achieving broader global health goals.

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