Conflict and Health is an open access, peer-reviewed journal published by BioMed Central.

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The Globethics.net library contains articles of Conflict and Health as of vol. 1(2007) to current.

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  • Rebuilding child health in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): evaluating the Asili social enterprise program

    Rasika Behl; Sofia Ali; Jonathan Altamirano; Abraham Leno; Yvonne Maldonado; Clea Sarnquist (BMC, 2022-05-01)
    Abstract Background The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has a long history of conflict and ongoing local instability; the eastern provinces, including South Kivu, have been especially affected. Health systems and livelihoods have been undermined, contributing to massive inequities in access to health services and high rates of internal displacement. Asili, an innovative social enterprise program, aimed to provide essential community services and improve the health of under-five children in two South Kivu communities, Mudaka and Panzi, via provision of small-format, franchisable health clinics and clean water services. Methods We evaluated utilization and acceptance of Asili services in two study sites, Mudaka and Panzi. Data collected included questions on housing conditions, food security, and at follow up, Asili membership and use, satisfaction with services, and recommendations for improvement. Structured pre- and post-interviews with primary caregivers of families with under-five children were the primary source of data with additional community input collected through focus group discussions. Results At baseline, we enrolled 843 households in Mudaka and 890 in Panzi. Market segmentation analysis illuminated service usage patterns, showing Asili services were well received overall in both Mudaka and Panzi. Families reporting higher levels of proxy measures of socioeconomic status (SES), such as electricity, land ownership, and education, were more likely to use Asili services, findings that were further supported by focus group discussions among community members. Conclusions Rebuilding health infrastructure in post-conflict settings, especially those that continue to be conflict-affected and very low SES, is a challenging prospect. Focus group results for this study highlighted the positive community response to Asili, while also underscoring challenges related to cost of services. Programs may need, in particular, to have different levels of costs for different SES groups. Additionally, longer follow-up periods and increased stability may be needed to assess the potential of social enterprise interventions such as Asili to improve health outcomes, especially in children. Trial registration Institutional Review Board approval for this study was obtained at Stanford University (IRB 35216) and the University of Kinshasa, DRC. Further, this study has been registered on Clinicaltrials.gov (record NCT03536286), retrospectively registered as of 4/23/2018.
  • Dealing with difficult choices: a qualitative study of experiences and consequences of moral challenges among disaster healthcare responders

    Martina E. Gustavsson; Niklas Juth; Filip K. Arnberg; Johan von Schreeb (BMC, 2022-05-01)
    Abstract Background Disasters are chaotic events with healthcare needs that overwhelm available capacities. Disaster healthcare responders must make difficult and swift choices, e.g., regarding who and what to prioritize. Responders dealing with such challenging choices are exposed to moral stress that might develop into moral distress and affect their wellbeing. We aimed to explore how deployed international disaster healthcare responders perceive, manage and are affected by moral challenges. Methods Focus groups discussions were conducted with 12 participants which were Swedish nurses and physicians with international disaster healthcare experience from three agencies. The transcribed discussions were analyzed using content analysis. Results We identified five interlinked themes on what influenced perceptions of moral challenges; and how these challenges were managed and affected responders’ wellbeing during and after the response. The themes were: “type of difficult situation”, “managing difficult situations”, “tools and support”, “engagement as a protective factor”, and “work environment stressors as a risk factor. Moral challenges were described as inevitable and predominant when working in disaster settings. The responders felt that their wellbeing was negatively affected depending on the type and length of their stay and further; severity, repetitiveness of encounters, and duration of the morally challenging situations. Responders had to be creative and constructive in resolving and finding their own support in such situations, as formal support was often either lacking or not considered appropriate. Conclusion The participating disaster healthcare responders were self-taught to cope with both moral challenges and moral distress. We found that the difficult experiences also had perceived positive effects such as personal and professional growth and a changed worldview, although at a personal cost. Support considered useful was foremost collegial support, while psychosocial support after deployment was considered useful provided that this person had knowledge of the working conditions and/or similar experiences. Our findings may be used to inform organizations’ support structures for responders before, during and after deployment.
  • Implementation of maternal and perinatal death surveillance and response (MPDSR) in humanitarian settings: insights and experiences of humanitarian health practitioners and global technical expert meeting attendees

    Neal Russell; Hannah Tappis; Jean Paul Mwanga; Benjamin Black; Kusum Thapa; Endang Handzel; Elaine Scudder; Ribka Amsalu; Jyoti Reddi; Francesca Palestra (BMC, 2022-05-01)
    Abstract Background Maternal and perinatal death surveillance and response (MPDSR) is a system of identifying, analysing and learning lessons from such deaths in order to respond and prevent future deaths, and has been recommended by WHO and implemented in many low-and-middle income settings in recent years. However, there is limited documentation of experience with MPDSR in humanitarian settings. A meeting on MPDSR in humanitarian settings was convened by WHO, UNICEF, CDC and Save the Children, UNFPA and UNHCR on 17th–18th October 2019, informed by semi-structured interviews with a range of professionals, including expert attendees. Consultation findings Interviewees revealed significant obstacles to full implementation of the MPDSR process in humanitarian settings. Many obstacles were familiar to low resource settings in general but were amplified in the context of a humanitarian crisis, such as overburdened services, disincentives to reporting, accountability gaps, a blame approach, and politicisation of mortality. Factors more unique to humanitarian contexts included concerns about health worker security and moral distress. There are varying levels of institutionalisation and implementation capacity for MPDSR within humanitarian organisations. It is suggested that if poorly implemented, particularly with a punitive or blame approach, MPDSR may be counterproductive. Nevertheless, successes in MPDSR were described whereby the process led to concrete actions to prevent deaths, and where death reviews have led to improved understanding of complex and rectifiable contextual factors leading to deaths in humanitarian settings. Conclusions Despite the challenges, examples exist where the lessons learnt from MPDSR processes have led to improved access and quality of care in humanitarian contexts, including successful advocacy. An adapted approach is required to ensure feasibility, with varying implementation being possible in different phases of crises. There is a need for guidance on MPDSR in humanitarian contexts, and for greater documentation and learning from experiences.
  • Conducting public health surveillance in areas of armed conflict and restricted population access: a qualitative case study of polio surveillance in conflict-affected areas of Borno State, Nigeria

    Eric Wiesen; Raymond Dankoli; Melton Musa; Jeff Higgins; Joseph Forbi; Jibrin Idris; Ndadilnasiya Waziri; Oladapo Ogunbodede; Kabiru Mohammed; Omotayo Bolu (BMC, 2022-05-01)
    Abstract This study examined the impact of armed conflict on public health surveillance systems, the limitations of traditional surveillance in this context, and innovative strategies to overcome these limitations. A qualitative case study was conducted to examine the factors affecting the functioning of poliovirus surveillance in conflict-affected areas of Borno state, Nigeria using semi-structured interviews of a purposeful sample of participants. The main inhibitors of surveillance were inaccessibility, the destroyed health infrastructure, and the destroyed communication network. These three challenges created a situation in which the traditional polio surveillance system could not function. Three strategies to overcome these challenges were viewed by respondents as the most impactful. First, local community informants were recruited to conduct surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis in children in the inaccessible areas. Second, the informants engaged in local-level negotiation with the insurgency groups to bring children with paralysis to accessible areas for investigation and sample collection. Third, GIS technology was used to track the places reached for surveillance and vaccination and to estimate the size and location of the inaccessible population. A modified monitoring system tracked tailored indicators including the number of places reached for surveillance and the number of acute flaccid paralysis cases detected and investigated, and utilized GIS technology to map the reach of the program. The surveillance strategies used in Borno were successful in increasing surveillance sensitivity in an area of protracted conflict and inaccessibility. This approach and some of the specific strategies may be useful in other areas of armed conflict.
  • Consistency of reports of violence from northern Rakhine state in August 2017

    Sarah Trager; Jennifer Leigh; Andrea Woods; Parveen Parmar; Agnes Petty; Rohini Haar; Chris Beyrer (BMC, 2022-05-01)
    Abstract Background In August 2017, Myanmar’s Armed Forces, the Tatmadaw, launched an orchestrated attack on hundreds of Rohingya-majority villages in northern Rakhine state. This study seeks to validate the consistency of previous reports of violence against the Rohingya people in the region carried out by the Tatmadaw, Border Guard Police, and Rakhine villagers in the late summer and early fall of 2017. Methods Internal validation data is from a three-armed study. Data analyzed in the external triangulation was sourced through a literature review of known, publicly available surveys and interviews. Both sets of data documented instances of violence against the Rohingya people in northern Rakhine state during the late summer and early fall of 2017. Consistency was evaluated across five indicators of violence: arson, presence of mass graves, reports of sexual violence and human injuries, as well as human fatalities, across 611 locales in northern Rakhine state. Further analysis was conducted to measure consistency of reports by locale and across locales by indicator. Results Overall, an internal validation of 94 hamlets found that 98% of these locales were consistent across at least four of the five indicators (80% + consistency). Arson and reports of human injuries were the most consistent indicators across locales (100% and 99% consistency, respectively) and sexual violence was the least consistent indicator, with 84% of participating locales exhibiting consistent reports of sexual violence between the qualitative and quantitative data. Similarly, an external validation of 57 locations found that 50 of the 57 locations (88%) were consistent across indicators. Arson was the most consistent across sources (96%), whereas source agreement across locations was the least consistent for reports of sexual violence (58%). Conclusion The government of Myanmar has denied involvement in the 2017 attacks on Rohingya communities in northern Rakhine state and purports that reports of the violence and destruction are overstated. However, consistent reporting from multiple sources on the same locales clearly underscores the veracity of the evidence documented, both by investigative groups and as recounted by Rohingya survivors of violence. It is our hope that this cataloging and comparison of available data, along with this study’s assessment of its consistency, will aid ongoing accountability efforts.
  • The boundaries between complex posttraumatic stress disorder symptom clusters and post-migration living difficulties in traumatised Afghan refugees: a network analysis

    Jennifer Schiess-Jokanovic; Matthias Knefel; Viktoria Kantor; Dina Weindl; Ingo Schäfer; Brigitte Lueger-Schuster (BMC, 2022-04-01)
    Abstract Background Psychological distress due to the ongoing war, violence, and persecution is particularly common among Afghan asylum seekers and refugees. In addition, individuals face a variety of post-migration living difficulties (PMLDs). Complex posttraumatic stress symptoms are among the most common mental health problems in this population, and were associated with the overall burden of PMLDs. The complex interplay of posttraumatic symptoms has been investigated from a network perspective in previous studies. However, individuals are embedded in and constantly react to the environment, which makes it important to include external factors in network models to better understand the etiology and maintaining factors of posttraumatic mental health problems. PMLDs are a major risk factor for posttraumatic distress and considering their impact in interventions might improve response rates. However, the interaction of these external factors with posttraumatic psychopathological distress is not yet fully understood. Thus, we aimed to illuminate the complex interaction between PMLDs and CPTSD symptom clusters. Objective The main objective is the exploration of the network structure and the complex interplay of ICD-11 CPTSD symptom clusters and distinct forms of PMLDs. Method The symptom clusters of CPTSD and PMLDs were collected within a randomised controlled trial among 93 treatment-seeking Afghan asylum seekers and refugees via a fully structured face-to-face and interpreter assisted interview. Using a network analytical approach, we explored the complex associations and network centrality of the CPTSD symptom clusters and the PMLD factors: discrimination & socio-economical living conditions, language acquisition & barriers, family concerns, and residence insecurity. Results The results suggest direct links within and between the constructs (CPTSD, PMLD). Almost all PMLD factors were interrelated and associated to CPTSD, family concerns was the only isolated variable. The CPTSD symptom cluster re-experiencing and the PMLD factor language acquisition & barriers connected the two constructs. Affective dysregulation had the highest and avoidance the lowest centrality. Conclusions Re-experiencing and affective dysregulation have the strongest ties to PMLDs. Thus, these domains might explain the strong association of posttraumatic psychopathology with PLMDs and, consequently, prioritization of these domains in treatment approaches might both facilitate treatment response and reduce burden caused by PMLDs.
  • Identifying transferable lessons from cholera epidemic responses by Médecins Sans Frontières in Mozambique, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, 2015–2018: a scoping review

    Lauren D’Mello-Guyett; Oliver Cumming; Elliot Rogers; Rob D’hondt; Estifanos Mengitsu; Maria Mashako; Rafael Van Den Bergh; Placide Okitayemba Welo; Peter Maes; Francesco Checchi (BMC, 2022-03-01)
    Abstract Background Cholera epidemics occur frequently in low-income countries affected by concurrent humanitarian crises. Evaluations of these epidemic response remains largely unpublished and there is a need to generate evidence on response efforts to inform future programmes. This review of MSF cholera epidemic responses aimed to describe the main characteristics of the cholera epidemics and related responses in these three countries, to identify challenges to different intervention strategies based on available data; and to make recommendations for epidemic prevention and control practice and policy. Methods Case studies from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Mozambique were purposively selected by MSF for this review due to the documented burden of cholera in each country, frequency of cholera outbreaks, and risk of humanitarian crises. Data were extracted on the characteristics of the epidemics; time between alert and response; and, the delivery of health and water, sanitation and hygiene interventions. A Theory of Change for cholera response programmes was built to assess factors that affected implementation of the responses. Results and conclusions 20 epidemic response reports were identified, 15 in DRC, one in Malawi and four in Mozambique. All contexts experienced concurrent humanitarian crises, either armed conflict or natural disasters. Across the settings, median time between the date of alert and date of the start of the response by MSF was 23 days (IQR 14–41). Almost all responses targeted interventions community-wide, and all responses implemented in-patient treatment of suspected cholera cases in either established health care facilities (HCFs) or temporary cholera treatment units (CTUs). In three responses, interventions were delivered as case-area targeted interventions (CATI) and four responses targeted households of admitted suspected cholera cases. CATI or delivery of interventions to households of admitted suspected cases occurred from 2017 onwards only. Overall, 74 factors affecting implementation were identified including delayed supplies of materials, insufficient quantities of materials and limited or lack of coordination with local government or other agencies. Based on this review, the following recommendations are made to improve cholera prevention and control efforts: explore improved models for epidemic preparedness, including rapid mobilisation of supplies and deployment of trained staff; invest in and strengthen partnerships with national and local government and other agencies; and to standardise reporting templates that allow for rigorous and structured evaluations within and across countries to provide consistent and accessible data.
  • Evaluation of public health surveillance systems in refugee settlements in Uganda, 2016–2019: lessons learned

    Alex Riolexus Ario; Emily Atuheire Barigye; Innocent Harbert Nkonwa; Jimmy Ogwal; Denis Nixon Opio; Lilian Bulage; Daniel Kadobera; Paul Edward Okello; Leocadia Warren Kwagonza; Susan Kizito (BMC, 2022-04-01)
    Abstract Background Civil wars in the Great Lakes region resulted in massive displacement of people to neighboring countries including Uganda. With associated disease epidemics related to this conflict, a disease surveillance system was established aiming for timely detection of diseases and rapid response to outbreaks. We describe the evaluation of and lessons learned from the public health surveillance system set up in refugee settlements in Uganda. Methods We conducted a cross-sectional survey using the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Updated Guidelines for Evaluating Public Health Surveillance Systems and the Uganda National Technical Guidelines for Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response in four refugee settlements in Uganda—Bidibidi, Adjumani, Kiryandongo and Rhino Camp. Using semi-structured questionnaires, key informant and focus group discussion guides, we interviewed 53 health facility leaders, 12 key personnel and 224 village health team members from 53 health facilities and 112 villages and assessed key surveillance functions and attributes. Results All health facilities assessed had key surveillance staff; 60% were trained on Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response and most village health teams were trained on disease surveillance. Case detection was at 55%; facilities lacked standard case definitions and were using parallel Implementing Partner driven reporting systems. Recording was at 79% and reporting was at 81%. Data analysis and interpretation was at 49%. Confirmation of outbreaks and events was at 76%. Preparedness was at 72%. Response was at 34%. Feedback was at 82%. Evaluate and improve the system was at 67%. There was low capacity for detection, response and data analysis and interpretation of cases (< 60%). Conclusion The surveillance system in the refugee settlements was functional with many performing attributes but with many remaining gaps. There was low capacity for detection, response and data analysis and interpretation in all the refugee settlements. There is need for improvement to align surveillance systems in refugee settlements with the mainstream surveillance system in the country. Implementing Partners should be urged to offer support for surveillance and training of surveillance staff on Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response to maintain effective surveillance functions. Functionalization of district teams ensures achievement of surveillance functions and attributes. Regular supervision of and support to health facility surveillance personnel is essential. Harmonization of reporting improves surveillance functions and attributes and appropriation of funds by government to districts to support refugee settlements is complementary to maintain effective surveillance of priority diseases in the northern and central part of Uganda.
  • Gender-based violence experiences among Palestinian women during the COVID-19 pandemic: mental health professionals’ perceptions and concerns

    Fayez Mahamid; Guido Veronese; Dana Bdier (BMC, 2022-04-01)
    Abstract Background In a geopolitically at-risk environment, such as Palestine, gender-based violence (GBV) is still a crucial problem rooted in discriminatory laws and traditional habits exacerbated by the ongoing Israeli military occupation. Moreover, the lack of updated data makes it difficult to grasp the magnitude of the phenomenon entirely; the purpose of the current study was to explore mental health professionals’ perceptions and concerns on GBV among Palestinian women during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods Participants in the study were 30 Mental Health Professionals (MHP) selected using convenience and snowball sampling techniques from among MHP in northern West Bank, Palestine. Results A thematic content analysis revealed seven main themes of GBV during the pandemic. Palestinian MHP reported that the increased number of GBV cases among women during the COVID-19, quarantine, physical distancing measures, and closure of non-essential services significantly heightened the risks of GBV among Palestinian women. Moreover, Palestinian women involved with or married to older men or married at a very young age were at risk of GBV more than others. Results of qualitative analysis also showed that Israeli occupation and the political violence characterizing the area for decades (including restriction of movement, house demolitions, separation of family members, etc.) have also exacerbated and increased GBV in the occupied Palestinian territories. Conclusions Improving intervention skills and supervision services among Palestinian MHP to help women who face GBV is recommended. Moreover, additional research should be conducted to explore the risk and potential factors of GBV, agency, and coping strategies to deal with GBV.
  • Addressing recall bias in (post-)conflict data collection and analysis: lessons from a large-scale health survey in Colombia

    Rodrigo Moreno-Serra; Misael Anaya-Montes; Sebastián León-Giraldo; Oscar Bernal (BMC, 2022-04-01)
    Abstract Background Much applied research on the consequences of conflicts for health suffers from data limitations, particularly the absence of longitudinal data spanning pre-, during- and post-conflict periods for affected individuals. Such limitations often hinder reliable measurement of the causal effects of conflict and their pathways, hampering also the design of effective post-conflict health policies. Researchers have sought to overcome these data limitations by conducting ex-post surveys, asking participants to recall their health and living standards before (or during) conflict. These questions may introduce important analytical biases due to recall error and misreporting. Methods We investigate how to implement ex-post health surveys that collect recall data, for conflict-affected populations, which is reliable for empirical analysis via standard quantitative methods. We propose two complementary strategies based on methods developed in the psychology and psychometric literatures—the Flashbulb and test-retest approaches—to identify and address recall bias in ex-post health survey data. We apply these strategies to the case study of a large-scale health survey which we implemented in Colombia in the post-peace agreement period, but that included recall questions referring to the conflict period. Results We demonstrate how adapted versions of the Flashbulb and test-retest strategies can be used to test for recall bias in (post-)conflict survey responses. We also show how these test strategies can be incorporated into post-conflict health surveys in their design phase, accompanied by further ex-ante mitigation strategies for recall bias, to increase the reliability of survey data analysis—including by identifying the survey modules, and sub-populations, for which empirical analysis is likely to yield more reliable causal inference about the health consequences of conflict. Conclusions Our study makes a novel contribution to the field of applied health research in humanitarian settings, by providing practical methodological guidance for the implementation of data collection efforts in humanitarian contexts where recall information, collected from primary surveys, is required to allow assessments of changes in health and wellbeing. Key lessons include the importance of embedding appropriate strategies to test and address recall bias into the design of any relevant data collection tools in post-conflict or humanitarian contexts.
  • Seeking justice amidst chaos: methods to identify and document individuals implicated in crimes against the Rohingya in August 2017

    Jennifer Leigh; Alexander Blum; Agnes Petty; Andrea Woods; Parveen Parmar; Chris Beyrer (BMC, 2022-03-01)
    Abstract Background Documenting perpetrators of human rights violations enables effective prosecution and can help prevent future atrocities. Doing so calls for collecting reliable data using verifiable and transparent methodology. We present methods used to document crimes and identify alleged perpetrators implicated in the 2017 attacks against Rohingya civilians in Myanmar. The findings and lessons-learned have relevance to contemporary crises with widespread atrocities. Methods A mixed-methods assessment conducted from May to July 2018 included: (1) cross-sectional quantitative surveys among leaders of affected hamlets in northern Rakhine State, (2) qualitative interviews to record hamlet-level accounts, and (3) clinical evaluations of survivors of violence. Survey respondents who reported violence and destruction in each hamlet were asked to identify perpetrators of those acts, including known role or affiliation. The reported names were reviewed for clarity and divergent spellings, repeated references were aggregated, and the names and roles were analyzed and classified by location and affiliation. Results 143 individuals were implicated in atrocities committed across three Northern Rakhine townships. Each was independently identified by at least three separate survey respondents as directly committing violence or destruction in their hamlet of origin, or as witnessed while fleeing to Bangladesh. Two-thirds (69%) of identified perpetrators were reported by four or more participants and 47% by five or more. Some form of additional identifying information, was provided for 85% of names. The most common affiliations were: Myanmar army (n = 40), Border Guard Police (n = 32), Village Tract Administrators (n = 17), and extremists (n = 25). Conclusions The methodology presented here yielded a unique record of individuals purported to have directly committed acts of violence and destruction in Rakhine State in August 2017, forming the most extensive record of individuals implicated in ground-level perpetration of those crimes. This methodology can play a key role in accountability mechanisms for the Rohingya, and in other settings in which perpetrators are many and documentation of their crimes is difficult. The use of survey methods and standardized data collection amongst affected populations to comprehensively characterize crimes committed and to identify individuals implicated in those crimes can serve as a key tool in documentation and an important component of accountability.
  • The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of Rohingya refugees with pre-existing health problems in Bangladesh

    Somen Palit; Huifang Yang; Jiangping Li; Md. Abdullah Saeed Khan; Mohammad Jahid Hasan (BMC, 2022-03-01)
    Abstract Background Mental disorders among refugees have been well explored in several studies. However, longitudinal studies on the impact of the pandemic on refugee populations are widely lacking. This study was designed to examine the impact of the current pandemic on the mental health of Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh. Method This longitudinal study involved a convenience sample of 732 Rohingya people with pre-existing health problems who lived in the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The first recruitment was performed on 5 July 2019 (prepandemic visit) and assessed the health status of refugees using the Refugee Health Screener-15 (RHS-15). The follow-up survey was conducted on 10 November 2020, approximately 15 months later, during the pandemic. A total of 342 Rohingya refugees who completed the initial survey participated in the follow-up survey. A newly developed COVID-19 Impact on Quality of Life (COV19-QoL) scale was used alongside the RHS-15 scale during the second survey. Ethical measures were taken in compliance with the current Declaration of Helsinki. The analysis was performed using SPSS 26. Result A total of 342 Rohingya refugees completed this longitudinal survey. The average age of participants was 32.25 ± 14.01 years (SD), and the predominant age group was ≤ 30 years (n = 207, 60.5%). Most of the participants were female (n = 209, 61.1%). A significant increase in stress was noted from the prepandemic to pandemic periods, as determined by the RHS-15 scale (RHS-15 Part I: 22.96 ± 8.43 vs. 46.72 ± 1.87, p &lt; 0.001; and RHS-15 Part II: 4.43 ± 1.59 vs. 6.91 ± 1.49, p &lt; 0.001). The mean COV19-QoL score of the participants was 4.47 ± 0.15 (out of 5), indicating a perceived negative impact of the pandemic in their lives. In the multiple regression analysis, female sex (β = 0.604, p = 0.017) and COV19-QoL score (β = 2.537, p = 0.003) were significantly associated with higher perceived distress among participants. Conclusion Rohingya refugees experienced a significant deterioration of mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Alongside other socioeconomic, environmental, and political factors, the pandemic itself might have been a crucial contributor to this negative trend.
  • Promising practices for the monitoring and evaluation of gender-based violence risk mitigation interventions in humanitarian response: a multi-methods study

    Vandana Sharma; Emily Ausubel; Christine Heckman; Sonia Rastogi; Jocelyn T. D. Kelly (BMC, 2022-03-01)
    Abstract Background Risks of gender-based violence (GBV) are exacerbated in humanitarian crises. GBV risk mitigation interventions aim to reduce exposure to GBV and ensure that humanitarian response actions and services themselves do not cause harm or increase the risk of violence. The 2015 IASC Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action (‘GBV Guidelines’) are a globally endorsed resource that provides comprehensive guidance for all humanitarian actors and sectors on GBV risk mitigation. While uptake of GBV risk mitigation approaches across multiple humanitarian sectors has occurred, there is limited understanding of how to monitor and evaluate GBV risk mitigation interventions. Methods A multi-methods study was conducted in 2019 to identify promising practices for the monitoring and evaluation (M&amp;E) of GBV risk mitigation interventions in non-GBV sectors and to develop a set of illustrative case examples. The study included a comprehensive desk review of 145 articles, documents and resources from the published and grey literature, as well as 11 in-depth interviews and five focus group discussions with humanitarian practitioners. Using Dedoose software and a codebook developed a priori, qualitative data were transcribed and coded and a content analysis was conducted. Excerpts focusing on promising practices from the qualitative data and the desk review were analyzed together and grouped by thematic area. Similar promising practices were combined and consolidated to create a final list, and case examples were identified. Results Current promising practices for M&amp;E of GBV risk mitigation activities in the following categories are described: (1) Coordination and collaboration, (2) Designing M&amp;E approaches and tools for GBV risk mitigation activities, (3) Contextualization, (4) Developing and selecting indicators, (5) Data collection, (6) Data analysis and use of findings, (7) Potential safety concerns for affected populations and staff, and (8) Staff capacity and engagement. These are supplemented with seven diverse case examples to illustrate application of the promising practices using real-world examples. Conclusion This paper highlights current promising practices for M&amp;E of GBV risk mitigation interventions in humanitarian response. Further application of these practices—alongside ongoing documentation of emerging approaches—will be critical to ensuring that GBV risk mitigation interventions are more rigorously tested with the aim of building the evidence base on the effectiveness of different GBV risk mitigation interventions within specific humanitarian sectors.
  • Health systems resilience in fragile and shock-prone settings through the prism of gender equity and justice: implications for research, policy and practice

    Wesam Mansour; Abriti Arjyal; Chad Hughes; Emma Tiange Gbaoh; Fouad Mohamed Fouad; Haja Wurie; Hnin Kalayar Kyaw; Julie Tartaggia; Kate Hawkins; Kyu Kyu Than (BMC, 2022-02-01)
    Abstract Fragile and shock-prone settings (FASP) present a critical development challenge, eroding efforts to build healthy, sustainable and equitable societies. Power relations and inequities experienced by people because of social markers, e.g., gender, age, education, ethnicity, and race, intersect leading to poverty and associated health challenges. Concurrent to the growing body of literature exploring the impact of these intersecting axes of inequity in FASP settings, there is a need to identify actions promoting gender, equity, and justice (GEJ). Gender norms that emphasise toxic masculinity, patriarchy, societal control over women and lack of justice are unfortunately common throughout the world and are exacerbated in FASP settings. It is critical that health policies in FASP settings consider GEJ and include strategies that promote progressive changes in power relationships. ReBUILD for Resilience (ReBUILD) focuses on health systems resilience in FASP settings and is underpinned by a conceptual framework that is grounded in a broader view of health systems as complex adaptive systems. The framework identifies links between different capacities and enables identification of feedback loops which can drive or inhibit the emergence and implementation of resilient approaches. We applied the framework to four different country case studies (Lebanon, Myanmar, Nepal and Sierra Leone) to illustrate how it can be inclusive of GEJ concerns, to inform future research and support context responsive recommendations to build equitable and inclusive health systems in FASP settings.
  • Shifting to Tele-Mental Health in humanitarian and crisis settings: an evaluation of Médecins Sans Frontières experience during the COVID-19 pandemic

    Khasan Ibragimov; Miguel Palma; Gregory Keane; Janet Ousley; Madeleine Crowe; Cristina Carreño; German Casas; Clair Mills; Augusto Llosa; M. S. F. Mental Health Working Group (BMC, 2022-02-01)
    Abstract Background ‘Tele-Mental Health (MH) services,’ are an increasingly important way to expand care to underserved groups in low-resource settings. In order to continue providing psychiatric, psychotherapeutic and counselling care during COVID-19-related movement restrictions, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), a humanitarian medical organization, abruptly transitioned part of its MH activities across humanitarian and resource-constrained settings to remote format. Methods From June–July of 2020, investigators used a mixed method, sequential explanatory study design to assess MSF staff perceptions of tele-MH services. Preliminary quantitative results influenced qualitative question guide design. Eighty-one quantitative online questionnaires were collected and a subset of 13 qualitative follow-up in-depth interviews occurred. Results Respondents in 44 countries (6 geographic regions), mostly from Sub-Saharan Africa (39.5%), the Middle East and North Africa (18.5%) and Asia (13.6%) participated. Most tele-MH interventions depended on audio-only platforms (80%). 30% of respondents reported that more than half of their patients were unreachable using these interventions, usually because of poor network coverage (73.8%), a lack of communication devices (72.1%), or a lack of a private space at home (67.2%). Nearly half (47.5%) of respondents felt their staff had a decreased ability to provide comprehensive MH care using telecommunication platforms. Most respondents thought MH staff had a negative (46%) or mixed (42%) impression of remote care. Nevertheless, almost all respondents (96.7%) thought tele-MH services had some degree of usefulness, notably improved access to care (37.7%) and time efficiency (32.8%). Qualitative results outlined a myriad of challenges, notably in establishing therapeutic alliance, providing care for vulnerable populations and those inherent to the communications infrastructure. Conclusion Tele-MH services were perceived to be a feasible alternative solution to in-person therapeutic interventions in humanitarian settings during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they were not considered suitable for all patients in the contexts studied, especially survivors of sexual or interpersonal violence, pediatric and geriatric cases, and patients with severe MH conditions. Audio-only technologies that lacked non-verbal cues were particularly challenging and made risk assessment and emergency care more difficult. Prior to considering tele-MH services, communications infrastructure should be assessed, and comprehensive, context-specific protocols should be developed.
  • A mediation analysis of the role of girl child marriage in the relationship between proximity to conflict and past-year intimate partner violence in post-conflict Sri Lanka

    Ruvani W. Fonseka; Lotus McDougal; Anita Raj; Elizabeth Reed; Rebecka Lundgren; Lianne Urada; Jay G. Silverman (BMC, 2022-02-01)
    Abstract Background Studies from many contexts indicate that proximity to conflict is associated with increased likelihood of intimate partner violence (IPV), and girl child marriage is associated with both proximity to conflict and increased IPV. In this study, we consider whether girl child marriage acts as a mediator of the association between proximity to conflict and IPV in the context of Sri Lanka, which sustained long-term conflict until 2009. Methods We analyzed responses of currently partnered women between ages 18 and 49 in the 2016 Sri Lankan Demographic and Health Survey (N = 13,691). Using logistic regression analyses, we measured associations between proximity to conflict (residence in districts which were central, proximal, or distal to the regions where the war occurred) and the outcomes of IPV and girl child marriage, and secondarily assessed girl child marriage as a possible mediator of the association between proximity to conflict and past year IPV. Results Women residing in districts central to conflict, as compared to districts distal to conflict, had increased odds of past year sexual, physical, and emotional IPV, with the odds of sexual IPV increasing the most (adjusted odds ratio/aOR 4.19, 95% confidence interval/CI 2.08–8.41). Residing in districts proximal to conflict compared to those distal to conflict was associated with lower odds of past year physical and emotional IPV, with the greatest decrease in emotional IPV (aOR 0.31, CI 0.18–0.54). Girl child marriage was more likely in districts central to conflict as opposed to those distal to conflict (aOR 1.89, CI 1.22–2.93), and partially mediated the relationship between centrality to conflict and IPV. Conclusions Our findings demonstrate that residing in districts central to conflict compared to those distal to conflict is associated with greater odds of IPV and girl child marriage in post-conflict Sri Lanka, with girl child marriage partially mediating the association between centrality to conflict and IPV. Residence in districts proximal to conflict appears protective against IPV. Future research should investigate what factors are responsible for decreased IPV in districts proximal to violence, and whether these factors can be reproduced to mitigate the increased prevalence of IPV in districts central to conflict.
  • Transactional sex work and HIV among women in conflict-affected Northeastern Uganda: a population-based study

    Jennifer J. Mootz; Omolola A. Odejimi; Aishwarya Bhattacharya; Bianca Kann; Julia Ettelbrick; Milena Mello; Milton L. Wainberg; Kaveh Khoshnood (BMC, 2022-02-01)
    Abstract Background Armed conflict and the HIV pandemic are significant global health issues. Evidence of the association between armed conflict and HIV infection has been conflicting. Our objective was to examine the role of mediating risk factors, such as engagement in transactional sex work, to elucidate the relation between armed conflict and HIV infection. Methods We used multistage sampling across three Northeastern Ugandan districts to randomly select 605 women aged 13 to 49 to answer cross-sectional surveys from January to May of 2016. We used multivariate logistic regression model with R 4.0.3 to examine if exposure to armed conflict has an indirect effect on reporting having an HIV-positive serostatus through engagement in transactional sex work. Age and district residence were included as covariates. Results Exposure to armed conflict β = .16, SE = .04, p &lt; .05, OR = 1.17, 95% [CI .08, .23] was significantly associated with reporting a HIV-positive serostatus. For each 1-unit increase in exposure to armed conflict (i.e., additional type of armed conflict exposure), there was a 17% increase in the odds of reporting a HIV-positive serostatus. Engagement in transactional sex work was not associated with reporting a HIV-positive serostatus β = .04, SE = .05, p = .37, 95% [CI − .051, .138]. We found district of residence, age, and interaction effects. Conclusions Although exposure to armed was associated with reporting an HIV-positive serostatus, this relationship was not mediated by engagement in transactional sex. Further research is needed on risk factors that mediate this relationship. The likelihood of reporting a HIV-positive serostatus increased with each additional type of exposure to armed conflict. Thus, screening for exposure to multiple traumatic stressors should occur in HIV prevention settings. Healthcare services that are trauma-informed and consider mental distress would likely improve HIV outcomes.
  • Assessing gender responsiveness of COVID-19 response plans for populations in conflict-affected humanitarian emergencies

    Yara M. Asi; Priliantina Bebasari; Emily Hardy; Michelle Lokot; Kristen Meagher; Emilomo Ogbe; Ateeb Ahmad Parray; Vandana Sharma; Claire J. Standley; Luissa Vahedi (BMC, 2022-02-01)
    Abstract Background The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated rapid development of preparedness and response plans to quell transmission and prevent illness across the world. Increasingly, there is an appreciation of the need to consider equity issues in the development and implementation of these plans, not least with respect to gender, given the demonstrated differences in the impacts both of the disease and of control measures on men, women, and non-binary individuals. Humanitarian crises, and particularly those resulting from conflict or violence, exacerbate pre-existing gender inequality and discrimination. To this end, there is a particularly urgent need to assess the extent to which COVID-19 response plans, as developed for conflict-affected states and forcibly displaced populations, are gender responsive. Methods Using a multi-step selection process, we identified and analyzed 30 plans from states affected by conflict and those hosting forcibly displaced refugees and utilized an adapted version of the World Health Organization’s Gender Responsive Assessment Scale (WHO-GRAS) to determine whether existing COVID-19 response plans were gender-negative, gender-blind, gender-sensitive, or gender-transformative. Results We find that although few plans were gender-blind and none were gender-negative, no plans were gender-transformative. Most gender-sensitive plans only discuss issues specifically related to women (such as gender-based violence and reproductive health) rather than mainstream gender considerations throughout all sectors of policy planning. Conclusions Despite overwhelming evidence about the importance of intentionally embedding gender considerations into the COVID-19 planning and response, none of the plans reviewed in this study were classified as ‘gender transformative.’ We use these results to make specific recommendations for how infectious disease control efforts, for COVID-19 and beyond, can better integrate gender considerations in humanitarian settings, and particularly those affected by violence or conflict.
  • Cancer among syrian refugees living in Konya Province, Turkey

    Tezer Kutluk; Mehmet Koç; İrem Öner; İbrahim Babalıoğlu; Meral Kirazlı; Sinem Aydın; Fahad Ahmed; Yavuz Köksal; Hüseyin Tokgöz; Mustafa Duran (BMC, 2022-01-01)
    Abstract Background With more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees Turkey hosts the world's largest number of Syrians. Considering the morbidity, mortality, and healthcare spending, cancer is one of the leading health and economic burden for patients and healthcare systems. However, very limited information available in the scientific literature to understand the burden and characteristics of cancer in countries hosting Syrian refugees. The aim of the present study is to evaluate the demographic and clinical characteristics, treatment outcome of Syrian cancer patients living in Konya, Turkey. Methods We retrospectively reviewed medical records of Syrian cancer patients at three major institutions from 2005 to 2020. The information regarding demographic and clinical characteristics of patients were identified. The number of days between the first symptom and diagnosis was considered as the “diagnostic interval”. Patients who failed to attend clinics within four weeks of appointment were assumed abandoned treatment. Survival curves were estimated using the Kaplan–Meier method. Results We identified 230 adult and 38 children refugee diagnosed with cancer during the study period. With regards to adult patients, there were 114 (49.6%) male and 116 (50.4%) female. The median age at diagnosis was 52.4, 47.3 years for male, female respectively. The five most common cancer by site among all were; breast (24.8%), colorectal (10.9%), lung (7.4%), central nervous system (CNS) (7.0%), and stomach (5.2%). 93 (40.4%) had metastatic disease at diagnosis. The overall survival probability was 37.5% at five years for the adult population. Data were extracted for 20 boys and 18 girls with childhood cancer. Their median age at diagnosis was 5.8 and 6.0 years respectively. The three most common childhood cancer were; leukemias (21.1%), lymphomas (21.1%), and CNS (13.2%). Excluding leukemia, 13 (43.3%) of childhood cancer cases had the advanced disease at diagnosis. Three year survival probality was 69.5%. The median diagnostic interval for adult and childhood cancer was 96.5 (IQR = 53–165) and 23 (IQR = 13.5–59) days respectively. Twenty-one adults and four children had treatment abandonment. Conclusion This study contributes to understanding the burden of cancer among Syrian refugees living in Konya, growing health issue for refugees. Larger and prospective studies will help to measure the real burden and compare the difference in cancer risk factors, care, and outcomes among the refugee and host populations.
  • Measles in conflict-affected northern Syria: results from an ongoing outbreak surveillance program

    Sammy Mehtar; Naser AlMhawish; Kasim Shobak; Art Reingold; Debarati Guha-Sapir; Rohini J. Haar (BMC, 2021-12-01)
    Abstract Background The Syrian conflict has dramatically changed the public health landscape of Syria since its onset in March of 2011. Depleted resources, fractured health systems, and increased security risks have disrupted many routine services, including vaccinations, across several regions in Syria. Improving our understanding of infectious disease transmission in conflict-affected communities is imperative, particularly in the Syrian conflict. We utilize surveillance data from the Early Warning Alert and Response Network (EWARN) database managed by the Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU) to explore trends in the incidence of measles in conflict-affected northern Syria and analyze two consecutive epidemics in 2017 and 2018. Methods We conducted a retrospective time-series analysis of the incidence of clinically suspected cases of measles using EWARN data between January 2015 and June 2019. We compared regional and temporal trends to assess differences between geographic areas and across time. Results Between January 2015 and June 2019, there were 30,241 clinically suspected cases of measles reported, compared to 3193 cases reported across the whole country in the decade leading up to the conflict. There were 960 regional events that met the measles outbreak threshold and significant differences in the medians of measles incidence across all years (p-value &lt; 0.001) and in each pairwise comparison of years as well as across all geographic regions (p-value &lt; 0.001). Although most governorates faced an elevated burden of cases in every year of the study, the measles epidemics of 2017 and 2018 in the governorates of Ar-Raqqa, Deir-Ez-Zor, and Idlib accounted for over 71% of the total suspected cases over the entire study period. Conclusions The 2017 and 2018 measles epidemics were the largest since Syria eliminated the disease in 1999. The regions most affected by these outbreaks were areas of intense conflict and displacement between 2014 and 2018, including districts in Ar-Raqqa, Deir-Ez-Zor, and Idlib. The spread of measles in northern Syria serves as an indicator of low immunization coverage and limited access to care and highlights the Syrian peoples’ vulnerability to infectious diseases and vaccine preventable diseases in the setting of the current conflict.

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