Humanitarian Strategies

HHI's research on Humanitarian Strategies investigates how to advance the humanitarian field, focusing on the critical areas of negotiation, leadership, education, and evaluation. Explore the individual programs below to learn more about this work. 

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Humanitarian Strategies

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Strategies in Policy Analysis and Negotiation

Fosters innovative responses to current challenges to humanitarian protection by capturing new approaches and insights of practitioners through informal, professional exchange

Education in Crisis*

Advances the science of education in conflict through innovative, collaborative and multidisciplinary research

Evaluation and Implementation Science

Develops assessment strategies to address the needs of individuals, families, and populations affected by war, conflict, and natural disaster

Transitional Justice

Provides evidence that will make existing transitional justice instruments more effective and explores alternative approaches to transitional justice

Related Publications

Phuong Pham, Manasi Sharma, Kennedy Kihangi Bindu, Pacifique Zikomangane, Rachel C. Nethery, Eric Nilles, and Patrick Vinck. 2/16/2022. “Protective Behaviors Associated With Gender During the 2018-2020 Ebola Outbreak in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.” JAMA Network Open. Read PublicationAbstract

Importance: In 2018 to 2020, the Democratic Republic of the Congo experienced the world’s second largest Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak, killing 2290 individuals; women were disproportionately infected (57% of all cases) despite no evidence of differential biological EVD risk. Understanding how gender norms may influence exposure to EVD, intensity, and prognosis as well as personal protective behaviors against the virus is important to disease risk reduction and control interventions.

Objective: To assess whether men and women differ in personal protective behaviors (vaccine acceptance, health-seeking behaviors, physical distancing) and the mediating role of EVD information and knowledge, perceived disease risk, and social relations.

Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional, multistage cluster survey study of 1395 randomly selected adults was conducted in the Ebola-affected regions of North Kivu from April 20, 2019, to May 10, 2019. Path analyses were conducted using structural equation modeling to examine associations among study variables. Statistical analysis was conducted from August 2019 to May 2020.

Main Outcomes and Measures: The main behavioral outcomes of interest were (1) vaccine acceptance, (2) formal health care seeking, and (3) self-protective behaviors. The primary factor of interest was self-reported gender identity. We also assessed sociodemographic factors.

Results: Among the study’s 1395 participants, 1286 (93%) had Nande ethnicity and 698 (50%) were women; the mean (SD) age was 34.5 (13.1) years. Compared with female participants, male participants reported significantly higher levels of education, wealth, and mobile phone access. There were associations found between gender and all EVD preventive behavioral outcomes, with evidence for mediation through EVD knowledge and belief in rumors. Men reported greater EVD knowledge accuracy compared with women (mean [SE] score for men: 12.06 [0.13] vs women: 11.08 [0.16]; P < .001), and greater knowledge accuracy was associated with increases in vaccine acceptance (β = 0.37; P < .001), formal care seeking (β = 0.39; P < .001), and self-protective behaviors (β = 0.35; P < .001). Lower belief in rumors was associated with greater vaccine acceptance (β = −0.30; P < .001), and greater EVD information awareness was associated with increased adoption of self-protective behaviors (β = 0.23; P < .001).

Conclusions and Relevance: This survey study found gender differences in adopting preventive protective behaviors against EVD. These findings suggest that it is critical to design gender-sensitive communication and vaccination strategies, while engaging women and their community as a whole in any response to infectious disease outbreaks. Research on the potential link between gender and sociodemographics factors associated with disease risk and outcomes is needed.

P.N. Pham, L. Fozouni, and al-Saiedi. 4/8/2021. “Association between distress and displacement settings: a cross-sectional survey among displaced Yazidis in northern Iraq.”  BMC Public Health, 21, 679. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Background
Globally 70.8 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes and are at disproportionally high risk for trauma. At the time of this study, there was an estimated 1.6 million internally displaced persons (IDP) in Iraq, more than two-thirds of whom reside in private, urban settings. This study aims to understand the impact of post-displacement accommodation on mental well-being of the Yazidi minority group displaced in Iraq.

Methods
Multi-stage stratified sampling was used to randomly select IDPs in camp and out of camp settlements in northern Iraq. Standardized questionnaires evaluated factors including exposure to violence and self-reported distress symptoms (measured by Impact of Event Scale-Revised). A multi-variate linear model assessed the relationship between settlement setting and distress symptoms.

Results
One thousand two hundred fifty-six displaced Yazidi participants were included in the study: 63% in camps and 37% out of camps. After controlling for exposure to violence, social cohesion, unemployment, and access to basic services, IDPs in camps were predicted to have a 19% higher mean distress symptom score compared to those out of camps.

Conclusions
This study provides a framework to investigate post-displacement accommodation as a potential intervention to improve well-being for displaced populations. With a shift towards new models of emergency and long-term housing, it is important to understand the potential and limitations of more decentralized models, and identify effective methods to maintain access to basic services while improving living conditions for both displaced populations and their host communities.

Adrienne Fricke and Rahaf Safi. 3/2021. Window of Hope: Sustaining education of health professionals in northwest Syria.Abstract
This report is based on a comprehensive needs assessment carried out remotely by the HHI team in Syria in 2019. The OSF HESP grant was awarded to a larger project to understand the impact of humanitarian emergencies, including armed conflict, on students enrolled in medical and nursing programs. The goal is to produce a needs assessment toolkit to help support professional health care education programs during conflict. In addition to Syria, where the conflict is ongoing, the project examines Colombia, a recent post-conflict setting, and Rwanda, a developed post-conflict setting.
Abdulrazzaq Al-Saiedi, Kevin Coughlin, Muslih Irwani, Waad Ibrahim Khalil, Phuong Pham, and Patrick Vinck. 6/2020. “English Version: "Never Forget: Views on Peace and Justice Within Conflict-Affected Communities in Northern Iraq"”.Abstract

This survey offers a snapshot of the perceptions and attitudes about peace and justice within communities affected by the conflict with the Islamic State (IS). It is based on 5,213 interviews conducted in 2019 among a representative sample of internally displaced persons in northern Iraq and residents of the city of Mosul and surrounding areas.The research documents a severe lack of trust in official institutions, particularly in the Government of Iraq itself, stemming in large part from the belief that these institutions do not act in the best interest of the population. Few respondents had confidence in the Government of Iraq’s ability to investigate the crimes committed by the Islamic State fairly and accurately and to provide justice to survivors of the conflict.Despite the mistrust, respondents favor local justice and truth-seeking mechanisms. They view these efforts as necessary to build a durable peace, alongside measures to address the root causes of the rise of IS and longstanding divisions between the people of Iraq. However, rather than the challenge being diversity itself, the challenge is the Government of Iraq’s ability to promote and facilitate reconciliation and unity.Without an accountable government that is perceived to be legitimate and is trusted by all Iraqis, calls for justice and accountability may go unanswered, and the country risks slipping back into another conflict.

The research was conducted by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative in partnership with Mosul University and the Iraq-based Public Policy Institute. It was supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, which played no role in the design, analysis or publication of the research.

Abdulrazzaq Al-Saiedi, Kevin Coughlin, Muslih Irwani, Waad Ibrahim Khalil, Phuong Pham, and Patrick Vinck. 6/2020. “الترجمة العربية (Arabic Version): "Never Forget: Views on Peace and Justice Within Conflict-Affected Communities in Northern Iraq"”.Abstract

This survey offers a snapshot of the perceptions and attitudes about peace and justice within communities affected by the conflict with the Islamic State (IS). It is based on 5,213 interviews conducted in 2019 among a representative sample of internally displaced persons in northern Iraq and residents of the city of Mosul and surrounding areas.The research documents a severe lack of trust in official institutions, particularly in the Government of Iraq itself, stemming in large part from the belief that these institutions do not act in the best interest of the population. Few respondents had confidence in the Government of Iraq’s ability to investigate the crimes committed by the Islamic State fairly and accurately and to provide justice to survivors of the conflict.Despite the mistrust, respondents favor local justice and truth-seeking mechanisms. They view these efforts as necessary to build a durable peace, alongside measures to address the root causes of the rise of IS and longstanding divisions between the people of Iraq. However, rather than the challenge being diversity itself, the challenge is the Government of Iraq’s ability to promote and facilitate reconciliation and unity.Without an accountable government that is perceived to be legitimate and is trusted by all Iraqis, calls for justice and accountability may go unanswered, and the country risks slipping back into another conflict.

The research was conducted by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative in partnership with Mosul University and the Iraq-based Public Policy Institute. It was supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, which played no role in the design, analysis or publication of the research.

Emmanuel Tronc and Anaïde Nahikian. 7/21/2020. “Ukraine - Conflict in the Donbas: Civilians Hostage to Adversarial Geopolitics”. Read PublicationAbstract
Since 2014, the war in the Donbas, fueled and sustained by local and regional political priorities, has inflicted a heavy burden of civilian death, injury, displacement, destruction, and lasting trauma. As the conflict continues, the people of Donbas are more isolated than ever from the rest of their country, subjected to discrimination and stigmatization by both the Ukrainian authorities and separatist leaders. Today, a confluence of factors continues to drive conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Triggered by the 2013 Euromaidan protests in Kyiv, the rupture between the post-Maidan Ukrainian government and local elites in the Donbas over aspirations of independence and self-determination highlighted the growing schism between those with Russian-oriented ambitions and those supporting the new Ukrainian regime. As clans, warlords, and oligarchs within Ukraine fight for political influence and financial gain, Russian influence continues to destabilize the Westward-leaning Ukrainian authorities in Kyiv, reinvigorating the enduring geopolitical rivalry between Russia and the West. Humanitarian operations in Eastern Ukraine are also under significant pressure by the separatist authorities. Agencies struggle to bridge the gap between critical needs and their response capacity, while being forced to rely almost exclusively on local organizations. In the process of humanitarian and access negotiations, agencies must guard against the instrumentalization of aid, the blurring of lines between political, military, and relief operations, and an ever-shrinking humanitarian space. What drives this protracted conflict? How have global politics and local agendas contributed to sustaining a “frozen” conflict at the expense of communities and in the interest of asserting nationalist independence at all costs? How have the hopes of local communities in the Donbas withered over time, as they navigate the dissonance in geopolitical rhetoric and their lived reality? What avenues exist for reconciliation and unity amidst this violent divisiveness? This report explores these questions and offers reflections based on more than 250 interviews undertaken during two field visits to Ukraine, in both government and separatist-controlled areas, and one visit to Russia, between November 2019 and January 2020. It also draws on an extensive desk analysis of relevant literature to complement the findings of these interviews and consultations.
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