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Advancing Science for Global Health
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Advancing Health Research in Humanitarian Crises

Hundreds of millions of people around the world are affected by humanitarian crises, including natural disasters, armed conflict, forced displacement, and major disease outbreaks. The frequency, intensity, and cost of these crises has steadily increased over the past several decades, trends that are expected to continue with ongoing threats from climate change and emerging pandemics. These crises have direct and indirect impacts on health, disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, especially in low- and middle-income countries. However, conducting health research in these settings is very difficult and there is a limited amount of scientific evidence that can inform how governments, nongovernmental organizations and other humanitarian organizations respond to them.

The Fogarty Center for Global Health Studies (CGHS) leads a project exploring the role of global health research in the context of humanitarian crises. The goals of the project are to: (1) catalyze timely, high-quality, ethical and actionable research in crisis settings; and (2) strengthen the capacity of scientists, especially from LMICs, to conduct health research in crisis settings. Key partners in this activity include NIH Institutes and Centers, other U.S. government agencies, academic researchers from the U.S. and abroad, nongovernmental organizations and international organizations involved in humanitarian response. This field of research can also benefit the U.S. as lessons learned from global humanitarian crises can improve the government's ability to respond to disasters in the U.S.

Current Activities

Global Forum on Humanitarian Health Research (GFH2R)

In partnership with Canada's International Development Research Centre, the U.K. Medical Research Council, and the Wellcome Trust, Fogarty hosted a virtual Global Forum on Humanitarian Health Research on November 8–18, 2021. The virtual meeting brought researchers and humanitarian organizations (including NGOs, local policymakers, and international agencies) together to share experiences and promote collaboration. CGHS is currently exploring the next iteration of GFH2R with a preliminary Steering Committee of the relevant funders and global researchers.

Past Activities

Community engagement in the context of humanitarian crises

From August to October of 2022, CGHS conducted a consultation on Community Engagement in the Context of Humanitarian Crises with global experts in humanitarian health and/or community engagement. The aim of the consultation was to better understand how CGHS might facilitate dialogue among researchers and other critical partners, develop useful resources, and highlight the need for effective community engagement in health research in crisis settings.

Lessons from the field: Confronting the challenges of health research in humanitarian crises

Fogarty commissioned a collection of case study articles published across BMC Public Health and Conflict and Health. The papers describe the challenges and lessons learned by scientists conducting research in humanitarian crises. In May 2021, CGHS hosted a virtual event to launch the collection.

Publication: Health research in humanitarian crises

The scientific co-chairs and project team co-authored an analysis paper published in BMJ Global Health (Nov 11, 2019).


In April 2018, Fogarty hosted a workshop at NIH with key research and humanitarian stakeholders from diverse disciplines, areas of expertise and geographic regions. The meeting explored key themes such as research methodologies, implementation science, community engagement, research capacity, partnerships, and ethics.

humanitarian-image.jpg Photo credit: @UNICEF/UN029108/Phelps

Resources from Partners

  • NIH Disaster Research Response Program(DR2): The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Library of Medicine lead the DR2 program, which aims to create a disaster research system consisting of coordinated environmental health disaster research data collection tools and a network of trained research responders.
  • Human Mobility and HIV Research Program: The National Institute of Mental Health leads this program, which supports research on the impact of human mobility on prevention and treatment outcomes in individuals at risk or living with HIV. “Mobility" is defined to include forced displacement, trafficking, refugees, and internal displacement.
  • Global Mental Health and Human Mobility Research Program: Also led by the National Institute of Mental Health, this program supports research on the increasing mental health challenges faced by mobile populations at all stages of migration, including forced displacement, fleeing war and conflict, extreme weather, and other types of mobility.
  • Elrha: A UK-based charity that finds solutions to complex humanitarian problems through research and innovation. Elrha's Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises program funds research studies that seek to address public health issues by gathering evidence with the potential to contribute to improved public health outcomes in humanitarian contexts
  • Evidence Aid: A UK-based non-profit organization that aims to save lives and livelihoods in disasters by providing decision-makers with the best available evidence and by championing its use.
  • Nuffield Council on Bioethics: A UK-based organization that examines and reports on ethical issues in biology and medicine. Together with the Global Health Network they have developed an e-learning course covering the core ethical issues that arise when conducting research in global health emergencies.

Scientific Co-Chairs

  • Sabina Faiz Rashid, BRAC University
  • Shannon Doocy, Johns Hopkins University


Amit Mistry, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist
Center for Global Health Studies
Fogarty Division of International Science Policy, Planning and Evaluation
Email: amit.mistry@nih.gov

Blythe Beecroft, M.S.
Global Health Research and Policy Analyst
Center for Global Health Studies
Fogarty Division of International Science Policy, Planning and Evaluation
Email: blythe.beecroft@nih.gov

Updated July 25, 2023