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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 humanitarian crises; and (2) encourage uptake of evidence into the policy and practice of organizations that respond to humanitarian crises. 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

Past Activities

Health research in humanitarian crises: an urgent global imperative [Open access]: 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.


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.
  • Disaster Lit® Database for Disaster Medicine and Public Health: The National Library of Medicine leads Disaster Lit®, which is a free database of documents such as expert guidelines, research reports, conference proceedings, training classes, fact sheets, websites, databases, and similar materials for a professional audience.
  • 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.

Scientific Co-Chairs

  • Iman Nuwayhid, American University of Beirut
  • Brandon Kohrt, George Washington 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 (Contractor)
Center for Global Health Studies
Fogarty Division of International Science Policy, Planning and Evaluation
Email: blythe.beecroft@nih.gov

Updated October 15, 2021