In 2023, countries around the world continued to experience the human, economic and ecological impacts of protracted and resurgent conflicts, economic crises, and climate change, triggering and exacerbating humanitarian emergencies.

According to the International Rescue Committee, the 20 countries in its ‘Emergency Watchlist’ for 2024 are ‘home for just 10% of the world’s population but account for approximately 86% of all people in humanitarian need globally, 75% of displaced people, 70% of people suffering from crisis or worse levels of food insecurity—and a growing share of global extreme poverty’.

It is in this context that SSHAP and its partners work together to generate evidence and insights to inform locally led solutions to complex health and humanitarian challenges. SSHAP works closely with international, regional, national and local partners to strengthen strategy, policy, networks and capacity.

Below are a few highlights from SSHAP’s work in 2023.

Sudan conflict

Building on earlier briefings on strengthening health surveillance and early detection in Sudan, in June 2023 SSHAP convened a roundtable of regional experts on forced displacement within Sudan and neighbouring countries. This shaped a briefing on historical and socio-political dynamics to inform assistance and protection to South Sudanese and Sudanese fleeing the fighting. The expert network is guiding work on key issues, including a brief on cross-border migration, and further work on humanitarian assistance and protection, gender, food insecurity and environmental concerns.

Global surge in Cholera outbreaks

SSHAP produced evidence briefs in response to the upsurge in cholera cases in East and Southern Africa focusing on socio-behavioural insights to support community-centred cholera preparedness and response. In collaboration with the Collective Service, SSHAP produced a cholera question bank to facilitate primary data collection on socio-behavioural factors influencing cholera prevention and control at community level as well as a set of operational questions for responders.

The work informed data collection by UNICEF in Mozambique, orientated the Collective Service’s rapid research in Malawi, and led to SSHAP being invited to discuss insights during regional technical and operational meetings hosted by the Collective Service and the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN).

El Niño – climate and humanitarian impacts

The Collective Service commissioned SSHAP to produce a question bank (forthcoming) and data synthesis on the socio-behavioural dynamics related to health in the context of El Niño in East and Southern Africa and what are the best practices and innovative approaches to support community resilience.

SSHAP regional hubs

An important step in the localisation of operational responses and mutual learning across regions has been the development of two SSHAP regional hubs, one in Central and East Africa, and another in West Africa. With online spaces and curated resource collections on the SSHAP website, both hubs are engaged in programmes of activities that include roundtables, workshops and the co-production of responsive evidence briefs.

In March 2023, members of the Central and East Africa regional hub, led by Le Groupe d’Etudes sur les Conflits et la Sécurité Humaine (GEC-SH), organised a workshop on the theme of how social science research can better inform actions to tackle humanitarian challenges in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It included a focus on how to strengthen local research-practice networks. The workshop concluded with an agreement to develop a local network of academic researchers, humanitarian actors and local development associations that can translate research evidence into programmatic actions.

In December, the Regional Research and Training Center on HIV and Infectious Diseases (CRCF), Dakar, in partnership with the Centre des Opérations d’Urgence Sanitaire (COUS), co-hosted a roundtable on ‘social science perspectives on epidemic preparedness and response’. The roundtable brought together 20 participants involved in epidemic responses from university institutions, United Nations organisations, humanitarian organisations, community and civil society organisations, and several representatives from Senegal’s government ministries and agencies.

Drawing on evidence from a historical review of epidemic preparedness in Senegal in relation to the HIV and Ebola epidemics, as well as lessons learned from Covid governance and community involvement, participants considered ways to improve epidemic preparedness and the role of social science research and thinking in this. Several priority themes emerged which SSHAP could focus on and build collaborations around.

SSHAP Fellowship – from strength to strength

The fifth round of SSHAP’s established Fellowship programme reached new heights in 2023. With the latest round of the English-language programme running from May to August 2023, its call for applications attracted almost 2,000 people from 96 different countries for the 12 fellowship places. The 2023 cohort shared exciting reflections on how insights from the programme changed or will change the way that they work, including:

“The tools that have been shared will radically change the way I work. Better planning, including contextual research in the budget, etc.” MEAL Coordinator, Save the Children

“I plan to apply my understanding of how social understanding of political economy, vulnerability, and cultural logics should affect humanitarian response in the way I design my studies….” Researcher, University of Lagos

At the end of 2023, SSHAP launched the call for applications to its first Arabic language Fellowship.

Broadening access to the SSHAP website

Finally, a few words on the SSHAP website: towards the end of 2023 we completed our work on the site to enable browsing in French and Arabic, as well as English. We hope that visitors to the SSHAP website will find this useful and be further encouraged to share SSHAP resources with colleagues and peers across the globe.

Looking ahead

In 2024, SSHAP will continue to support and collaborate with international, regional, national and local actors reacting to current and emerging emergencies through rapid insights and robust and targeted analyses designed for use into policy, strategic and operational responses and readiness. SSHAP’s international partnership will work to further enhance its ability to draw on global and regional networks of experts with in-depth knowledge and experience of geographic areas, communities, and issues, including through strengthening and supporting SSHAP’s two Regional Hubs in Central and East Africa and West Africa to mobilise and convene interdisciplinary expertise from multiple countries.

Thanks for your support and interest in SSHAP’s work in 2023. We look forward to engaging with you in 2024!