Conducting research in areas affected by violence and armed conflict is challenging at the best of times. But when the coronavirus pandemic struck, many of our studies and planned data collections ground to a halt. With group-based activities banned in many countries, we looked for new ways to progress our interventions. The endless flexibility of both staff and research participants helped us maintain our promise to communities.
The Caregiver Support Intervention - which works within communities to improve the psychosocial wellbeing of parents and caregivers - was caught mid-study in Lebanon when COVID-19 arrived. The randomised controlled trial took place with 480 Syrian refugees living in the city of Tripoli - a city where hard lockdown resulted in a surge in stress levels and anxiety among families.
The team turned it around by conducting the final assessment entirely through WhatsApp and mobile phone. In total 94 per cent of caregivers were successfully reached using this remote methodology. Learn more about how we made the switch in this article.
Our WEACT TOOL was also adapted to a remote modality to continue to assess the competencies of frontline workers and identify areas of improvement. The tool reduces the risk of harm and ensures quality standards. A study in Lebanon was completed with the help of digital platforms - in close collaboration with George Washington University and the World Health Organisation under the EQUIP initiative.
The Big Issues
2020 was marked by the publication of 16 research articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, the completion of three studies, numerous new partnerships and a continued commitment to translating evidence into practice.
Sustainable and Scalable EdTech
Can't Wait to Learn - our innovative e-learning programme - was shown to make significant improvements in both literacy and numeracy in Sudan, in a paper published in The Journal of Development Effectiveness. In 2020, The Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX) - a joint initiative of the Global Partnership for Education and the International Development Research Centre - awarded us the chance to generate knowledge on how to adapt and scale the programme.
The Power of Play
PlayMatters - a $100 Million consortium project - aims to promote wellbeing and learning through play. The project is funded by LEGO Foundation and led by the International Rescue Committee. Over the course of 2020, the research agenda took shape, with projects planned in Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
Many families living under immense strain can experience mental health difficulties and complex psychosocial problems. We seek to learn how to promote wellbeing and a healthy home environment in settings affected by armed conflict. Formative work on the Nurturing Families intervention began in Lebanon and Jordan after securing funding. Over the next two years, the intervention will be pilot tested in both settings.
Tackling stigma and discrimination in communities is a highly sensitive process - one that we will continue to address in our growing body of research on the subject. In 2020, two articles were published on stigmatisation and how to target it. A systematic literature review dove into strategies to reduce stigma for children and adolescents in low-and middle-income countries. Another study was published as part of the development of our stigma reduction intervention, STRETCH. The research gathered qualitative insights into the process of stigmatisation with adults in DR Congo.
Figuring Out Emotions
Our Early Adolescent Skills for Emotions (EASE) team published in Frontiers in Psychiatry on the cultural and contextual adaptation process of the intervention implementation in Lebanon. A trial measuring the effectiveness of EASE - an intervention developed by the World Health Organisation - was conducted in 2020. Unfortunately, the study was interrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
An enabling, safe, and supportive learning space is like an oasis. CORE for Teachers supports the wellbeing of teachers and social emotional learning in the classroom through coaching. In 2020, the CORE team investigated best practices for remote implementation.
Mental Health Services
The GOAL project - led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine - supports health systems providing for the mental health needs of people affected by protracted displacement in Lebanon. During 2020, formative work kicked off and saw War Child co-develop the research agenda and tools for the study.
Roadmap to Impact
Our scaling ambitions are informed by insights from the mental health and psychosocial support sector. What we know - there is a dire need to reach millions more children and youth in the immediate future. In 2020, our Director of Research and Development Mark Jordans collaborated with mental health expert Brandon Kohrt on the Roadmap to Impact. The article outlines key criteria needed to develop and scale effective mental health care in low and middle-income countries.
TeamUp Goes Global
2020 saw TeamUp - our leading psychosocial support intervention - take wings and fly. To support the intervention's journey to scale, the year saw us welcome preparations for a large-scale evaluation in refugee settlements in Uganda.
The structures that serve to protect children often break down in times of crisis - exposing them to grave risks including separation from family, sexual abuse and forced recruitment into armed groups. Seeds seeks to support communities to prevent and tackle these issues in their own way. The year saw our team in Colombia gather data for the Seeds feasibility study. Meet the researcher in our dedicated story.
(Click on image for large view)