A programme to support research that will save lives following a humanitarian crisis is being launched by Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA), supported by the Wellcome Trust and the Department for International Development (DFID).
A total of £6.5 million will be available over three years, funded equally by the Wellcome Trust and DFID, with ELRHA overseeing the programme's execution and management.
The Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) programme aims to increase the level and quality of collaborative research on recognised public health challenges in humanitarian crises occurring in low- and middle-income countries, leading to improved health outcomes through cost-effective humanitarian interventions.
Humanitarian crises such as floods, earthquakes, and civil wars can have a devastating health impact on affected populations. Scarce resources, damaged services and infrastructure, and poor water and hygiene facilities lead to increased risk of disease and malnutrition, leaving affected countries' governments and the international community struggling to deliver vital life-saving services.
Dr Jimmy Whitworth, Head of International Activities at the Wellcome Trust, said: "The international community spends billions of pounds each year in responding to humanitarian crises. Yet we know very little about what works best in these situations and there is a real need for better evidence to inform emergency responses.
"We're working with DFID and ELRHA to bridge the gap between research and practice by strengthening partnerships between public health researchers and humanitarian agencies. The ultimate goal is to offer a robust, evidence-based approach to improve public health and emergency responses in crisis situations."
International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone said: "The British have a proud tradition of humanitarian support. But we need to do more than just give money once a drought or earthquake has struck.
"This programme is a perfect example of a smarter approach to help the international community better respond to emergencies.
"Working with the Wellcome Trust, international NGOs and leading academic institutions, it will involve using scientific expertise to gather evidence that will enable us to protect health in countries affected by crises."
The programme aims to build partnerships between humanitarian actors and academic researchers with collaboration between these two communities a prerequisite of applying for support from R2HC.
Another key outcome of the programme will be to develop improved ethical guidelines for undertaking research in disaster and emergency environments so that research projects funded through the programme can be approved in a timely way when an emergency strikes, or even in advance.
As part of the programme, R2HC will establish a rapid response facility of approved research teams that can be deployed into the heart of a humanitarian disaster to gather data as it strikes. This is the first facility of its kind and will provide vital evidence on health interventions at the earliest stages of a disaster.
Jess Camburn, ELRHA's Director, commented on the partnership, "We are delighted to be working with DFID and the Wellcome Trust to launch this important new programme. ELRHA's core mission is to enable and support effective partnerships between academic researchers and humanitarian actors around the world. The need for better evidence underpinning humanitarian action and interventions is pressing and we believe that programmes like R2HC can make a significant contribution to improving the impact and effectiveness of humanitarian interventions in the future."
R2HC is launching on 4th June 2013 at the Wellcome Trust in London and the first Call for Proposals will be announced at a series of townhall meetings thereafter in London, New York, Delhi and Nairobi, arranged to encourage applications from research teams globally.