R4HC-MENA International Policy Conference on ‘Health in conflict’ now on YouTube
Watch the Research for Health in Conflict in the Middle East and North Africa (R4HC-MENA) international policy conference, in English or Arabic.
The conference brought together researchers who have contributed to the Global Challenges Research Fund, R4HC-MENA project, to reflect on the lessons they had learned in the development of research and policy capacity strengthening in conflict-affected areas in MENA (Middle East and North Africa).
The project is a collaborative multi-centre research initiative that aims to address the healthcare challenges faced by populations affected by conflict. Through its interdisciplinary approach, the project has facilitated the development of a new network of practice that is developing policies and systems related to health.
The conference was cohosted by the Intellectual Forum and was live-streamed in two languages simultaneously - a first for Jesus College. The open sessions of the conference can be watched in English or Arabic at the links at the bottom of the page.
Day one of the conference opened with an enthralling keynote from Her Royal Highness Princess Dina Mired, tackling an analysis of key health and policy challenges facing people in the MENA past and present.
In her speech, Her Royal Highness noted: "Post-COVID-19... the whole world is hoping that leaders would now seek to reimagine global public health and to prioritise their efforts towards achieving global health security. COVID-19 showed us at an exorbitant human cost, that regardless of the moral imperative that all people should enjoy their rights to health, that it is also in the best self-interest of nations to work towards a resilient and strengthened global health system for the benefit of all. Refugee health and wellbeing is in the best interests of all."
Following this critical call for addressing health in conflict and for those displaced by it, the speakers emphasised that the R4HC-MENA project has enabled partners to engage with government, non-government organisations, and the private sector, improving policy and capacity. Speakers highlighted the importance of the partnership and its outputs in the face of ongoing geopolitical instability in the MENA region. It was explained that the success of the project is due to a combination of collaboration, alliance, and partnership.
Day one featured a range of presentations from R4HC-MENA researchers on the challenges and opportunities related to delivering healthcare in conflict-affected settings. This included non-communicable diseases, ecologies of war and health and political-pandemic interface. Those involved in the various arms of the project presented the incredible array of outputs and impacts of their research collaborations.
It was clear that the partnerships model had not only led to a wide range of peer-reviewed publications, but also innovative training programmes and workshops, and practice changes around the region and world. As one participant mentioned, there were wide ranging open and closed circles of interaction. Learning in and from the project has had many tangible outputs that impacted on policy, practice, and research with the region.
"The tragic events in Ukraine have brought the refugee issues for the first time since World War II closer to home - that of Europe. I sincerely hope that this tragedy would be the impetus to finally address the issue of the health of refugees for both communicable and noncommunicable diseases.
It is time for global leaders to institutionalise a new global framework for refugees that informs and protects the health of refugees caught in conflict. A global framework that includes a global solidarity fund that can be tapped on by host countries delivering cancer care to refugees whatever the context that they are in. An institutional solidarity fund based on equity, efficiency, and impact, aligned with this new framework for refugee health- that truly leaves no one behind. And it can be done. And should be done."
- Her Royal Highness Princess Dina Mired
Across the day, R4HC-MENA speakers suggested that conflicts continuous expose weakness in national health systems, in both those countries affected by conflict and others receiving refugees from neighbouring countries in conflict, and that through co-production, the project had contributed to evidence, policy and practice to explore and address these weaknesses. With some 80 million people worldwide forced to flee their home—a number increasing with the situation in the Ukraine—and with around 26 million of these people being refugees, it was emphasised that the issues explored are critical. Speakers attested to various findings affirming that refugees and those displaced by conflict feel a heavy burden, with many concerning health outcomes; R4HC-MENA identified a rise in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer and diabetes amongst those in conflict and displaced by it, due to both the high prevalence of risk factors and the fact that many are identified the late-stages of disease. The project had, therefore, helped improve policies and practice through providing critical evidence to address health issues and lead us towards health justice.
Panels discussed various regional and national realities through mental health interventions, health economics and the political economy of health, online learning, and strengthened research capacity in the MENA region. The day culminated with a panel discussion of leading policy practitioners and journalists on the future of the region. A new film ‘Lebanon: How politics made a nation sick’ was launched, providing context to regional issues.
The second day of the Conference focussed on the R4HC model for health research in conflict and humanitarian contexts and how the model might help in building sustainability into research networks, including the project network itself. The day focused on how to translate knowledge into policy actions and meaningful "on the ground" impacts, co-produced with those living in conflict or displaced by it.
Panel discussions explored strengthening health research in conflict through real world interventions, solutions for building capacity and supporting leadership in global health, and how we translate our academic knowledge into practice. One panel explored gender inequity in health and explored women’s leadership roles in conflict settings and healthcare.
In the afternoon, a series of stimulating closed policy briefing sessions rounded out the conference, facilitated by the Centre for Science and Policy (CSAP) covering key policy areas and new projects, including on building and sustaining an academic and policy network, and health security and pandemic preparedness. These sessions allowed researchers, policy advisors, NGOs, and participants who had themselves been refugees from conflict-affected settings to discuss various points of learning and to collaborate on building agendas for the future.
The open sessions of the conference can be watched on YouTube in English and Arabic: