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1.  Development of the Community Midwifery Education initiative and its influence on women’s health and empowerment in Afghanistan: a case study 
BMC Women's Health  2014;14:111.
Political transition in Afghanistan enabled reconstruction of the destroyed health system. Maternal health was prioritised due to political will and historically high mortality. However, severe shortages of skilled birth attendants - particularly in rural areas - hampered safe motherhood initiatives. The Community Midwifery Education (CME) programme began training rural midwives in 2002, scaling-up nationally in 2005.
This case study analyses CME development and implementation to help determine successes and challenges. Data were collected through documentary review and key informant interviews. Content analysis was informed by Walt and Gilson’s policy triangle framework.
The CME programme has contributed to consistently positive indicators, including up to a 1273/100,000 reduction in maternal mortality ratios, up to a 28% increase in skilled deliveries, and a six-fold increase in qualified midwives since 2002. Begun as a small pilot, CME has gained support of international donors, the Afghan government, and civil society.
CME is considered by stakeholders to be a positive model for promoting women’s education, employment, and health. However, its future is threatened by insecurity, corruption, lack of regulation, and funding uncertainties. Strategic planning and resource mobilisation are required for it to achieve its potential of transforming maternal healthcare in Afghanistan.
PMCID: PMC4237830  PMID: 25220577
Policy analysis; Midwifery; Maternal health; Afghanistan
2.  Perspectives on reproductive healthcare delivered through a basic package of health services in Afghanistan: a qualitative study 
Contracting-out non-state providers to deliver a minimum package of essential health services is an increasingly common health service delivery mechanism in conflict-affected settings, where government capacity and resources are particularly constrained. Afghanistan, the longest-running example of Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS) contracting in a conflict-affected setting, enables study of how implementation of a national intervention influences access to prioritised health services. This study explores stakeholder perspectives of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services delivered through the BPHS in Afghanistan, using Bamyan Province as a case study.
Twenty-six in-depth interviews were conducted with health-system practitioners (e.g. policy/regulatory, middle management, frontline providers) and four focus groups with service-users. Inductive thematic coding used the WHO Health System Framework categories (i.e. service delivery, workforce, medicines, information, financing, stewardship), while allowing for emergent themes.
Improvements were noted by respondents in all health-system components discussed, with significant improvements identified in service coverage and workforce, particularly improved gender balance, numbers, training, and standardisation. Despite improvements, remaining weaknesses included service access and usage - especially in remote areas, staff retention, workload, and community accountability.
By including perspectives on SRH service provision and BPHS contracting across health-system components and levels, this study contributes to broader debates on the effects of contracting on perceptions and experiences among practitioners and service-users in conflict-affected countries.
PMCID: PMC4169831  PMID: 25167872
BPHS; SRH; Reproductive health; Health-system framework; Afghanistan
3.  The intergenerational effects of war on the health of children 
BMC Medicine  2014;12:57.
The short- and medium-term effects of conflict on population health are reasonably well documented. Less considered are its consequences across generations and potential harms to the health of children yet to be born.
Looking first at the nature and effects of exposures during conflict, and then at the potential routes through which harm may propagate within families, we consider the intergenerational effects of four features of conflict: violence, challenges to mental health, infection and malnutrition. Conflict-driven harms are transmitted through a complex permissive environment that includes biological, cultural and economic factors, and feedback loops between sources of harm and weaknesses in individual and societal resilience to them. We discuss the multiplicative effects of ongoing conflict when hostilities are prolonged.
We summarize many instances in which the effects of war can propagate across generations. We hope that the evidence laid out in the article will stimulate research and – more importantly – contribute to the discussion of the costs of war; particularly in the longer-term in post-conflict situations in which interventions need to be sustained and adapted over many years.
PMCID: PMC3997818  PMID: 24694212
War; Conflict; Developmental origins; Children; Mental health
4.  Using Q-methodology to explore people’s health seeking behavior and perception of the quality of primary care services 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:2.
Information on health seeking behavior and beneficiaries’ perception of the quality of primary care can help policy makers to set strategies to improve health system. With scarcity of research on this particular field in Iraqi Kurdistan region, we sought to explore the patterns of health seeking behavior and perception of the quality of primary care services of a sample of population.
This explorative study was carried out in Erbil governorate, Iraq. Data were collected using the novel approach of Q-methodology for eliciting subjective viewpoints and identifying shared patterns among individuals. Forty persons representing different demographic and socioeconomic groups and living in different areas of Erbil governorate sorted 50 statements reflecting different aspects of health-seeking behavior and primary care services into a distribution on a scale of nine from “disagree most” to “agree most”. By-person factor analysis through centroid factor extraction and varimax rotation of factors were used to derive latent viewpoints.
Four distinct patterns of health seeking behavior and viewpoints toward the primary care services were identified. People in factor 1 are extremely critical of the services at primary health care centers and are regular users of the private health sector. People in factor 2 positively recognize the services at primary health care centers but mainly turn to inappropriate health seeking behavior. People in factor 3 have satisfaction with the services at primary health care centers with minimal use of these services, but mainly turn to the private sector. People in factor 4 are slightly satisfied with the services at primary health care centers but mainly rely on these services.
This study highlighted the typical characterizations that were associated with each uncovered factor. Informing on the beneficiaries’ concerns about the primary care services can help to improve the system through further exploring the issues raised by the respondents and directing particular action on these issues. The characterizing and distinguishing statements can be used as a set of questions to conduct community-based survey on this important aspect of health services.
PMCID: PMC3882479  PMID: 24387106
Primary care; Health seeking; Perception; Factors
5.  Is Forced Migration a Barrier to Treatment Success? Similar HIV Treatment Outcomes Among Refugees and a Surrounding Host Community in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 
AIDS and Behavior  2013;18(2):323-334.
In response to an absence of studies among refugees and host communities accessing highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in urban settings, our objective was to compare adherence and virological outcomes among clients attending a public clinic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A cross-sectional survey was conducted among adult clients (≥18 years). Data sources included a structured questionnaire that measured self-reported adherence, a pharmacy-based measure of HAART prescription refills over the previous 24 months, and HIV viral loads. The primary outcome was unsuppressed viral load (≥40 copies/mL). Among a sample of 153 refugees and 148 host community clients, refugees were younger (median age 35 [interquartile range, IQR 31, 39] vs 40 years [IQR 35, 48], p < 0.001), more likely to be female (36 vs 21 %, p = 0.004), and to have been on HAART for less time (61 [IQR 35, 108] vs 153 weeks [IQR 63, 298]; p < 0.001). Among all clients, similar proportions of refugee and host clients were <95 % adherent to pharmacy refills (26 vs 34 %, p = 0.15). When restricting to clients on treatment for ≥25 weeks, similar proportions from each group were not virologically suppressed (19 % of refugees vs 16 % of host clients, p = 0.54). Refugee status was not independently associated with the outcome (adjusted odds ratio, aOR = 1.28, 95 % CI 0.52, 3.14). Overall, the proportions of refugee and host community clients with unsuppressed viral loads and sub-optimal adherence were similar, supporting the idea that refugees in protracted asylum situations are able to sustain good treatment outcomes and should explicitly be included in the HIV strategic plans of host countries with a view to expanding access in accordance with national guidelines for HAART.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10461-013-0494-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3905173  PMID: 23748862
Refugees; Forced migration; HIV; Antiretrovirals; Outcomes; Adherence
6.  The range and diversity of providers’ viewpoints towards the Iraqi primary health care system: an exploration using Q-methodology 
The increasingly recognized need for reorganizing the primary health care services in Iraq calls for a comprehensive assessment of the system to better understand its problems and needs for development. As part of such comprehensive assessment and due to the important role of primary health care providers in adopting any change, we ought to explore the range and diversity of viewpoints of primary health care providers towards the Iraqi primary health care system.
This explorative study was carried out in Erbil governorate, Iraq from May to July 2011. Data were collected from primary health care providers using Q-methodology to elicit subjective viewpoints and identify shared patterns among individuals. Forty primary health care providers representing eight primary health care centers sorted 41 statements reflecting different aspects of the Iraqi primary health care system into a distribution on a scale of nine from “disagree most” to “agree most”. By-person factor analysis was used to derive latent viewpoints through centroid factor extraction and varimax rotation of factors.
Analysis of the participants’ Q-sorts resulted in four distinct viewpoints among primary health care providers toward the current primary health care system. One factor emphasized positive aspects of the current primary health care system that is content with the current primary health care system. The other three factors highlighted the negative aspects and they included (i) professionally-centered viewpoint, (ii) comprehensive perception and problem-based solutions and (iii) critical to leadership/governance aspects of the system.
This study revealed diverse viewpoints of primary health care providers toward the current Iraqi primary health care system and recognized the particular issues related to each viewpoint. The findings can contribute to a better understanding of health policy makers and primary health care managers concerning the problems facing the primary health care system that might contribute to change in the management of this system.
PMCID: PMC3606603  PMID: 23514334
Primary health care; Q-methodology; Providers; Assessment
7.  Iraqi primary care system in Kurdistan region: providers’ perspectives on problems and opportunities for improvement 
As part of a comprehensive study on the primary health care system in Iraq, we sought to explore primary care providers’ perspectives about the main problems influencing the provision of primary care services and opportunities to improve the system.
A qualitative study based on four focus groups involving 40 primary care providers from 12 primary health care centres was conducted in Erbil governorate in the Iraqi Kurdistan region between July and October 2010. A topic guide was used to lead discussions and covered questions on positive aspects of and current problems with the primary care system in addition to the priority needs for its improvement. The discussions were fully transcribed and the qualitative data was analyzed by content analysis, followed by a thematic analysis.
Problems facing the primary care system included inappropriate health service delivery (irrational use of health services, irrational treatment, poor referral system, poor infrastructure and poor hygiene), health workforce challenges (high number of specialists, uneven distribution of the health workforce, rapid turnover, lack of training and educational opportunities and discrepancies in the salary system), shortage in resources (shortage and low quality of medical supplies and shortage in financing), poor information technology and poor leadership/governance. The greatest emphasis was placed on poor organization of health services delivery, particularly the irrational use of health services and the related overcrowding and overload on primary care providers and health facilities. Suggestions for improving the system included application of a family medicine approach and ensuring effective planning and monitoring.
This study has provided a comprehensive understanding of the factors that negatively affect the primary care system in Iraq’s Kurdistan region from the perspective of primary care providers. From their experience, primary care providers have a role in informing the community and policy makers about the main problems affecting this system, though improvements to the health care system must be taken up at the national level and involve other key stakeholders.
PMCID: PMC3492068  PMID: 23016849
Primary care; Care providers; Focus group; Service delivery; Kurdistan region
8.  Relevance or Excellence? Setting Research Priorities for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Humanitarian Settings 
Harvard Review of Psychiatry  2012;20(1):25-36.
Background: Humanitarian crises are associated with an increase in mental disorders and psychological distress. Despite the emerging consensus on intervention strategies in humanitarian settings, the field of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) in humanitarian settings lacks a consensus-based research agenda. Methods: From August 2009 to February 2010, we contacted policymakers, academic researchers, and humanitarian aid workers, and conducted nine semistructured focus group discussions with 114 participants in three locations (Peru, Uganda, and Nepal), in both the capitals and remote humanitarian settings. Local stakeholders representing a range of academic expertise (psychiatry, psychology, social work, child protection, and medical anthropology) and organizations (governments, universities, nongovernmental organizations, and UN agencies) were asked to identify priority questions for MHPSS research in humanitarian settings, and to discuss factors that hamper and facilitate research. Results: Thematic analyses of transcripts show that participants broadly agreed on prioritized research themes in the following order: (1) the prevalence and burden of mental health and psychosocial difficulties in humanitarian settings, (2) how MHPSS implementation can be improved, (3) evaluation of specific MHPSS interventions, (4) the determinants of mental health and psychological distress, and (5) improved research methods and processes. Rather than differences in research themes across countries, what emerged was a disconnect between different groups of stakeholders regarding research processes: the perceived lack of translation of research findings into actual policy and programs; misunderstanding of research methods by aid workers; different appreciation of the time needed to conduct research; and disputed universality of research constructs. Conclusions: To advance a collaborative research agenda, actors in this field need to bridge the perceived disconnect between the goals of “relevance” and “excellence.” Research needs to be more sensitive to questions and concerns arising from humanitarian interventions, and practitioners need to take research findings into account in designing interventions. (Harv Rev Psychiatry 2012;20:25–36.)
PMCID: PMC3335084  PMID: 22335180
disasters; global mental health; humanitarian crises; political violence; psychosocial support; research priorities
9.  Research Priorities for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Humanitarian Settings 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(9):e1001096.
Wietse Tol and colleagues lay out a a consensus-based research agenda for mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian settings.
PMCID: PMC3176752  PMID: 21949644
10.  Economic Feasibility of a New Method to Estimate Mortality in Crisis-Affected and Resource-Poor Settings 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e25175.
Mortality data provide essential evidence on the health status of populations in crisis-affected and resource-poor settings and to guide and assess relief operations. Retrospective surveys are commonly used to collect mortality data in such populations, but require substantial resources and have important methodological limitations. We evaluated the feasibility of an alternative method for rapidly quantifying mortality (the informant method). The study objective was to assess the economic feasibility of the informant method.
The informant method captures deaths through an exhaustive search for all deaths occurring in a population over a defined and recent recall period, using key community informants and next-of-kin of decedents. Between July and October 2008, we implemented and evaluated the informant method in: Kabul, Afghanistan; Mae La camp for Karen refugees, Thai-Burma border; Chiradzulu District, Malawi; and Lugufu and Mtabila refugee camps, Tanzania. We documented the time and cost inputs for the informant method in each site, and compared these with projections for hypothetical retrospective mortality surveys implemented in the same site with a 6 month recall period and with a 30 day recall period.
The informant method was estimated to require an average of 29% less time inputs and 33% less monetary inputs across all four study sites when compared with retrospective surveys with a 6 month recall period, and 88% less time inputs and 86% less monetary inputs when compared with retrospective surveys with a 1 month recall period. Verbal autopsy questionnaires were feasible and efficient, constituting only 4% of total person-time for the informant method's implementation in Chiradzulu District.
The informant method requires fewer resources and incurs less respondent burden. The method's generally impressive feasibility and the near real-time mortality data it provides warrant further work to develop the method given the importance of mortality measurement in such settings.
PMCID: PMC3176324  PMID: 21949879
11.  Alcohol disorder amongst forcibly displaced persons in northern Uganda 
Addictive Behaviors  2011;36(8):870-873.
Alcohol use may be a coping mechanism for the stressors related to forced displacement. The aim of this study was to investigate levels and determinants of alcohol disorder amongst internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northern Uganda.
A cross-sectional survey with 1206 adult IDPs was conducted in Gulu and Amuru districts. Alcohol disorder was measured using the AUDIT instrument. Multivariate logistic regression was used to explore demographic, socio-economic, displacement and trauma exposure determinants of alcohol disorder.
The prevalence of probable alcohol disorder was 17% of all respondents, and 66% amongst those who drank alcohol once a month or more frequently. Factors associated with alcohol disorder included men compared to women, older age, and experiencing a higher number of traumatic events. These findings can help identify potentially vulnerable groups and target responses more effectively.
Research highlights
► 80% of sample reported drinking once a month or less (63% men, 91% women). ► 17% of all sample categorised as having alcohol disorder (32% men, 7% women). ► 66% of those drinking >monthly categorised with alcohol disorder (76% men, 47% women). ► Men, older age, and exposure to traumatic events associated with harmful alcohol use.
PMCID: PMC3102180  PMID: 21481540
Alcohol; Uganda; War; Risk-factors
12.  A new method to estimate mortality in crisis-affected and resource-poor settings: validation study 
Background Data on mortality rates are crucial to guide health interventions in crisis-affected and resource-poor settings. The methods currently available to collect mortality data in such settings feature important methodological limitations. We developed and validated a new method to provide near real-time mortality estimates in such settings.
Methods We selected four study sites: Kabul, Afghanistan; Mae La refugee camp, Thailand; Chiradzulu District, Malawi; and Lugufu and Mtabila refugee camps, Tanzania. We recorded information about all deaths in a 60-day period by asking key community informants and decedents’ next of kin to refer interviewers to bereaved households. We used the total number of deaths and population estimates to calculate mortality rates for 60- and 30-day periods. For validation we compared these rates with a best estimate of mortality using capture–recapture analysis with two further independent lists of deaths.
Results The population covered by the new method was 76 476 persons in Kabul, 43 794 in Mae La camp, 54 418 in Chiradzulu District and 80 136 in the Tanzania camps. The informant method showed moderate sensitivity (55.0% in Kabul, 64.0% in Mae La, 72.5% in Chiradzulu and 67.7% in Tanzania), but performed better than the active surveillance system in the Tanzania refugee camps.
Conclusions The informant method currently features moderate sensitivity for accurately assessing mortality, but warrants further development, particularly considering its advantages over current options (ease of implementation and analysis and near-real estimates of mortality rates). Strategies should be tested to improve the performance of the informant method.
PMCID: PMC2992632  PMID: 21044978
Mortality; death rate; validation; humanitarian; crisis; survey; surveillance; capture–recapture
13.  The influence of demographic characteristics, living conditions, and trauma exposure on the overall health of a conflict-affected population in Southern Sudan 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:518.
There remains limited evidence on how armed conflict affects overall physical and mental well-being rather than specific physical or mental health conditions. The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of demographic characteristics, living conditions, and violent and traumatic events on general physical and mental health in Southern Sudan which is emerging from 20 years of armed conflict.
A cross-sectional survey of 1228 adults was conducted in November 2007 in the town of Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan. Multivariate linear regression analysis was used to investigate the associations and relative influence of variables in three models of demographic characteristics, living conditions, and trauma exposure, on general physical and mental health status. These models were run separately and also as a combined model. Data quality and the internal consistency of the health status instrument (SF-8) were assessed.
The variables in the multivariate analysis (combined model) with negative coefficients of association with general physical health and mental health (i.e. worse health), respectively, were being female (coef. -2.47; -2.63), higher age (coef.-0.16; -0.17), absence of soap in the household (physical health coef. -2.24), and experiencing within the past 12 months a lack of food and/or water (coef. -1.46; -2.27) and lack of medical care (coef.-3.51; -3.17). A number of trauma variables and cumulative exposure to trauma showed an association with physical and mental health (see main text for data). There was limited variance in results when each of the three models were run separately and when they were combined, suggesting the pervasive influence of these variables. The SF-8 showed good data quality and internal consistency.
This study provides evidence on the pervasive influence of demographic characteristics, living conditions, and violent and traumatic events on the general physical and mental health of a conflict-affected population in Southern Sudan, and highlights the importance of addressing all these influences on overall health.
PMCID: PMC2936432  PMID: 20799956
14.  A case study of health sector reform in Kosovo 
The impact of conflict on population health and health infrastructure has been well documented; however the efforts of the international community to rebuild health systems in post-conflict periods have not been systematically examined. Based on a review of relevant literature, this paper develops a framework for analyzing health reform in post-conflict settings, and applies this framework to the case study of health system reform in post-conflict Kosovo. The paper examines two questions: first, the selection of health reform measures; and second, the outcome of the reform process. It measures the success of reforms by the extent to which reform achieved its objectives. Through an examination of primary documents and interviews with key stakeholders, the paper demonstrates that the external nature of the reform process, the compressed time period for reform, and weak state capacity undermined the ability of the success of the reform program.
PMCID: PMC2864221  PMID: 20398389
15.  Reproductive health and quality of life of young Burmese refugees in Thailand 
Of the 140 000 Burmese* refugees living in camps in Thailand, 30% are youths aged 15-24. Health services in these camps do not specifically target young people and their problems and needs are poorly understood. This study aimed to assess their reproductive health issues and quality of life, and identifies appropriate service needs.
We used a stratified two-stage random sample questionnaire survey of 397 young people 15-24 years from 5,183 households, and 19 semi-structured qualitative interviews to assess and explore health and quality of life issues.
The young people in the camps had very limited knowledge of reproductive health issues; only about one in five correctly answered at least one question on reproductive health. They were clear that they wanted more reproductive health education and services, to be provided by health workers rather than parents or teachers who were not able to give them the information they needed. Marital status was associated with sexual health knowledge; having relevant knowledge of reproductive health was up to six times higher in married compared to unmarried youth, after adjusting for socio-economic and demographic factors. Although condom use was considered important, in practice a large proportion of respondents felt too embarrassed to use them. There was a contradiction between moral views and actual behaviour; more than half believed they should remain virgins until marriage, while over half of the youth experienced sex before marriage. Two thirds of women were married before the age of 18, but two third felt they did not marry at the right age. Forced sex was considered acceptable by one in three youth. The youth considered their quality of life to be poor and limited due to confinement in the camps, the limited work opportunities, the aid dependency, the unclear future and the boredom and unhappiness they face.
The long conflict in Myanmar and the resultant long stay in refugee camps over decades affect the wellbeing of these young people. Lack of sexual health education and relevant services, and their concerns for their future are particular problems, which need to be addressed. Issues of education, vocational training and job possibilities also need to be considered.
*Burmese is used for all ethnic groups
PMCID: PMC2907534  PMID: 20338037
16.  An exploration of social determinants of health amongst internally displaced persons in northern Uganda 
Conflict and Health  2009;3:10.
Social determinants of health describe the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age and their influence on health. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels, which are themselves influenced by policy choices. Armed conflict and forced displacement are important influences on the social determinants of health. There is limited evidence on the social determinants of health of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have been forced from their homes due to armed conflict but remain within the borders of their country. The aim of this study was to explore the social determinants of overall physical and mental health of IDPs, including the response strategies used by IDPs to support their health needs. Northern Uganda was chosen as a case-study, and 21 face-to-face semi-structured interviews with IDPs were conducted in fifteen IDP camps between November and December 2006.
The findings indicated a number of key social determinants. Experiencing traumatic events could cause "over thinking" which in turn could lead to "madness" and physical ailments. Respondents also attributed "over thinking" to the spirit (cen) of a killed person returning to disturb its killer. Other social determinants included overcrowding which affected physical health and contributed to an emotional sense of loss of freedom; and poverty and loss of land which affected physical health from lack of food and income, and mental health because of worry and uncertainty. Respondents also commented on how the conflict and displacement and led to changes in social and cultural norms such as increased "adultery", "defilement", and "thieving". Response strategies included a combination of biopsychosocial health services, traditional practices, religion, family and friends, and isolating.
This study supports work exploring the political, environmental, economic, and socio-cultural determinants of health of IDPs. Addressing these determinants is essential to fundamentally improving the overall physical and mental health of IDPs.
PMCID: PMC2803159  PMID: 20003516
17.  Sexual violence in the protracted conflict of DRC programming for rape survivors in South Kivu 
Despite international acknowledgement of the linkages between sexual violence and conflict, reliable data on its prevalence, the circumstances, characteristics of perpetrators, and physical or mental health impacts is rare. Among the conflicts that have been associated with widespread sexual violence has been the one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
From 2003 till to date Malteser International has run a medico-social support programme for rape survivors in South Kivu province, DRC. In the context of this programme, a host of data was collected. We present these data and discuss the findings within the frame of available literature.
Malteser International registered 20,517 female rape survivors in the three year period 2005–2007. Women of all ages have been targeted by sexual violence and only few of those – and many of them only after several years – sought medical care and psychological help. Sexual violence in the DRC frequently led to social, especially familial, exclusion. Members of military and paramilitary groups were identified as the main perpetrators of sexual violence.
We have documented that in the DRC conflict sexual violence has been – and continues to be – highly prevalent in a wide area in the East of the country. Humanitarian programming in this field is challenging due to the multiple needs of rape survivors. The easily accessible, integrated medical and psycho-social care that the programme offered apparently responded to the needs of many rape survivors in this area.
PMCID: PMC2667421  PMID: 19284879
18.  Post-conflict mental health needs: a cross-sectional survey of trauma, depression and associated factors in Juba, Southern Sudan 
BMC Psychiatry  2009;9:7.
The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in January 2005 marked the end of the civil conflict in Sudan lasting over 20 years. The conflict was characterised by widespread violence and large-scale forced migration. Mental health is recognised as a key public health issue for conflict-affected populations. Studies revealed high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) amongst populations from Southern Sudan during the conflict. However, no studies have been conducted on mental health in post-war Southern Sudan. The objective of this study was to measure PTSD and depression in the population in the town of Juba in Southern Sudan; and to investigate the association ofdemographic, displacement, and past and recent trauma exposure variables, on the outcomes of PTSD and depression.
A cross-sectional, random cluster survey with a sample of 1242 adults (aged over 18 years) was conducted in November 2007 in the town of Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan. Levels of exposure to traumatic events and PTSD were measured using the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (original version), and levels of depression measured using the Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25. Multivariate logistic regression was used to analyse the association ofdemographic, displacement and trauma exposure variables on the outcomes of PTSD and depression. Multivariate logistic regression was also conducted to investigate which demographic and displacement variables were associated with exposure to traumatic events.
Over one third (36%) of respondents met symptom criteria for PTSD and half (50%) of respondents met symptom criteria for depression. The multivariate logistic regression analysis showed strong associations of gender, marital status, forced displacement, and trauma exposure with outcomes of PTSD and depression. Men, IDPs, and refugees and persons displaced more than once were all significantly more likely to have experienced eight or more traumatic events.
This study provides evidence of high levels of mental distress in the population of Juba Town, and associated risk-factors. Comprehensive social and psychological assistance is urgently required in Juba.
PMCID: PMC2656503  PMID: 19261192
19.  The reliability and validity of the SF-8 with a conflict-affected population in northern Uganda 
The SF-8 is a health-related quality of life instrument that could provide a useful means of assessing general physical and mental health amongst populations affected by conflict. The purpose of this study was to test the validity and reliability of the SF-8 with a conflict-affected population in northern Uganda.
A cross-sectional multi-staged, random cluster survey was conducted with 1206 adults in camps for internally displaced persons in Gulu and Amuru districts of northern Uganda. Data quality was assessed by analysing the number of incomplete responses to SF-8 items. Response distribution was analysed using aggregate endorsement frequency. Test-retest reliability was assessed in a separate smaller survey using the intraclass correlation test. Construct validity was measured using principal component analysis, and the Pearson Correlation test for item-summary score correlation and inter-instrument correlations. Known groups validity was assessed using a two sample t-test to evaluates the ability of the SF-8 to discriminate between groups known to have, and not have, physical and mental health problems.
The SF-8 showed excellent data quality. It showed acceptable item response distribution based upon analysis of aggregate endorsement frequencies. Test-retest showed a good intraclass correlation of 0.61 for PCS and 0.68 for MCS. The principal component analysis indicated strong construct validity and concurred with the results of the validity tests by the SF-8 developers. The SF-8 also showed strong construct validity between the 8 items and PCS and MCS summary score, moderate inter-instrument validity, and strong known groups validity.
This study provides evidence on the reliability and validity of the SF-8 amongst IDPs in northern Uganda.
PMCID: PMC2612648  PMID: 19055716
20.  A New Tool for Measuring the Brutality of War 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(12):e249.
Egbert Sondorp discusses the public health uses and implications of a new tool, the Dirty War Index, that measures prohibited war outcomes inflicted on populations during conflict.
PMCID: PMC2602719  PMID: 19090617
21.  Factors associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression amongst internally displaced persons in northern Uganda 
BMC Psychiatry  2008;8:38.
The 20 year war in northern Uganda between the Lord's Resistance Army and the Ugandan government has resulted in the displacement of up to 2 million people within Uganda. The purpose of the study was to measure rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression amongst these internally displaced persons (IDPs), and investigate associated demographic and trauma exposure risk factors.
A cross-sectional multi-staged, random cluster survey with 1210 adult IDPs was conducted in November 2006 in Gulu and Amuru districts of northern Uganda. Levels of exposure to traumatic events and PTSD were measured using the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (original version), and levels of depression were measured using the Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25. Multivariate logistic regression was used to analyse the association of demographic and trauma exposure variables on the outcomes of PTSD and depression.
Over half (54%) of the respondents met symptom criteria for PTSD, and over two thirds (67%) of respondents met symptom criteria for depression. Over half (58%) of respondents had experienced 8 or more of the 16 trauma events covered in the questionnaire. Factors strongly linked with PTSD and depression included gender, marital status, distance of displacement, experiencing ill health without medical care, experiencing rape or sexual abuse, experiencing lack of food or water, and experiencing higher rates of trauma exposure.
This study provides evidence of exposure to traumatic events and deprivation of essential goods and services suffered by IDPs, and the resultant effect this has upon their mental health. Protection and social and psychological assistance are urgently required to help IDPs in northern Uganda re-build their lives.
PMCID: PMC2397420  PMID: 18489768
22.  Humanitarian aid: some political realities 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2006;333(7573):817-818.
PMCID: PMC1618431  PMID: 17053217
23.  Mass Fatality Management following the South Asian Tsunami Disaster: Case Studies in Thailand, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(6):e195.
Following natural disasters, mismanagement of the dead has consequences for the psychological well-being of survivors. However, no technical guidelines currently exist for managing mass fatalities following large natural disasters. Existing methods of mass fatality management are not directly transferable as they are designed for transport accidents and acts of terrorism. Furthermore, no information is currently available about post-disaster management of the dead following previous large natural disasters.
Methods and Findings
After the tsunami disaster on 26 December 2004, we conducted three descriptive case studies to systematically document how the dead were managed in Thailand, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. We considered the following parameters: body recovery and storage, identification, disposal of human remains, and health risks from dead bodies. We used participant observations as members of post-tsunami response teams, conducted semi-structured interviews with key informants, and collected information from published and unpublished documents.
Refrigeration for preserving human remains was not available soon enough after the disaster, necessitating the use of other methods such as dry ice or temporary burial. No country had sufficient forensic capacity to identify thousands of victims. Rapid decomposition made visual identification almost impossible after 24–48 h. In Thailand, most forensic identification was made using dental and fingerprint data. Few victims were identified from DNA. Lack of national or local mass fatality plans further limited the quality and timeliness of response, a problem which was exacerbated by the absence of practical field guidelines or an international agency providing technical support.
Emergency response should not add to the distress of affected communities by inappropriately disposing of the victims. The rights of survivors to see their dead treated with dignity and respect requires practical guidelines and technical support. Mass fatality management following natural disasters needs to be informed by further field research and supported by a network of regional and international forensic institutes and agencies.
Case studies were conducted to systematically document how the bodies of those killed in the tsunami were managed in Thailand, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. Many lessons can be learned, though more research is needed.
Editors' Summary
Some 226,408 people died in the tsunami that hit countries across South Asia on 26 December 2004. As well as providing assistance to the living, a crucially important part of the disaster relief effort was the recovery, identification, and disposal of the dead. However, there is very little consensus about the best way to handle and identify large numbers of bodies. Although natural disasters that kill many people occur frequently, most guidelines for the management of large numbers of dead bodies have come out of the experience gained from transport accidents and from terrorist incidents, and these guidelines are not directly relevant; for example, natural disasters often cause many more deaths than transport accidents or terrorist attacks. It is important for survivors that the bodies of the dead are handled with respect and that the dead are identified so that survivors know what has happened to missing relatives. However, at the same time many people are afraid of what the effect of many dead bodies might be on the living; one belief is that dead bodies are a source of disease. Such a belief can lead to the inappropriately rapid burial of bodies before identification has been done.
Why Was This Study Done?
The tsunami of 2004 provided an opportunity to study four different aspects of how the dead were handled in a number of different countries: how the bodies were recovered, how the bodies were identified, how the bodies were disposed of, and what, if any, were the health effects of the large number of bodies on survivors. The authors wanted to then use the results to make recommendations for use in future natural disasters.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The authors interviewed in person, in writing, and by E-mail key people involved in the handling of the dead in three of the countries affected by the tsunami: Thailand (where 8,345 people died), Indonesia (where 165,708 people died), and Sri Lanka (where 35,399 people died). The authors discovered that there were a huge number of people and agencies involved in the handling of the dead; for example, in Indonesia 42 different organizations were involved in recovering bodies.
None of the countries had sufficient refrigerated storage available to store bodies until they could be identified. Some effective alternatives were used, such as temporary burial in shallow graves—where the temperature is lower than in the ambient air—with the intention of exhuming the bodies later for identification. However, many bodies were hurriedly buried in mass graves because they were decomposing; these bodies were almost impossible to identify.
Methods and efficiency of identification varied between and within countries. One hospital in Sri Lanka excelled by systematically photographing all bodies brought in and recording sex, height, and personal effects: 87% of the bodies brought here were identified. But in most areas rates of identification were much lower. It seemed that simple methods of identification were the most useful: photographs taken quickly before the bodies started to decompose, dental records, and personal effects found on the bodies. DNA analysis was only useful for a small number of bodies.
When it came to disposal of the bodies, again procedures differed widely, and in some cases were dictated by religious needs—for example, in some Muslim communities all bodies were buried within 24 hours, making counting and identification of the dead very difficult. Mass graves were often used, but these caused problems; for example, haphazard arrangement of the bodies meant that later exhumation and identification would be impossible.
The authors concluded that there was virtually no health impact of the dead bodies on survivors. Other studies found that there were no epidemics among the surviving population, and that most effects were on those who handled bodies in temporary morgues, where there were the expected variety of sharp-implement injuries and mucosal splashes with body fluids, along with heat stress and dehydration due to overuse of personal protective equipment such as respirators.
What Do These Findings Mean?
How efficiently bodies were handled after the tsunami varied widely across and even within countries. The authors conclude that much of this variety was because of a lack of national or local plans for such mass fatalities, along with a lack of practical field guidelines. There was little coordination of all of the different organizations involved. However, in some places bodies were handled very well. The authors drew on their findings to suggest guidelines for the possible future management of large numbers of bodies, and also suggested that further research should be done. Reassuringly, the large numbers of bodies did not cause problems for the survivors, so in the future survivors should be encouraged to systematically identify the dead rather than rushing to bury them because of fear of disease.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
• The World Heath Organization has a Web page that brings together much information on the tsunami and its aftermath
• News from the United Nations special envoy for the tsunami can be found on its Web site
• An article published by the Pan American Health Organization called “Disaster Myths That Just Won't Die”
• Field guidelines for managing mass fatality natural disasters developed by an international workshop following the tsunami
PMCID: PMC1472696  PMID: 16737348
24.  Contracting out health services in fragile states 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2006;332(7543):718-721.
Non-governmental organisations are contracted to provide most of Afghanistan's health services. What can we learn from their approach and is it sustainable in the longer term?
PMCID: PMC1410853  PMID: 16565130
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In this first special theme issue, Emerging Themes in Epidemiology publishes a collection of articles on the theme of Epidemiology in conflict. Violent conflict is an issue of great sensitivity within public health, but more structured research and reasoned discussion will allow us to better mitigate the public health impacts of war, and place the public health community in a more informed position in discussions about possible interventions in future conflicts.
PMCID: PMC544943  PMID: 15679911

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