The blog was originally published on Evidence Aid website for Humanitarian Evidence Week http://www.evidenceaid.org/the-use-of-evidence-synthesis-in-the-humanitarian-field/
The UNHCR has reported that Lebanon’s refugee population increased from just over 250,000 people in early April 2018, to nearly one million by the end of October. Contrast this with the fact that the Lebanese population itself consists of only six million nationals. The increase through this year has made Lebanon the country with the highest per capita concentration of refugees in the world. It has made it especially important that decisions about humanitarian actions make best use of evidence, including evidence syntheses and systematic reviews.
For example, while international organizations were investing in aid programs in Lebanon to respond to the crisis, Lebanon’s Ministry of International Affairs identified the need for a coordination model between these agencies. In response to this, members of the Global Evidence Synthesis Initiative (GESI) team of researchers at the American University of Beirut published two systematic review that identified various models and explored their effectiveness. This serves as an example of the use of systematic reviews to inform decision-making in the humanitarian field, but it was not easy. Elie Akl, senior author on these systematic reviews,, commented that “the work was challenging specially in the earliest stages of identifying research and reports that answer our research question, and then making sense out of what is published”.
The GESI Secretariat at the American University of Beirut aims to enhance the capacity to produce and use cross-sectoral evidence synthesis in low- and middle-income countries across the world. They have identified some local practitioners who are able to identify or produce evidence to inform decision-making in non-health fields; and the current regional conflict and influx of refugees to Lebanon has pushed the GESI Secretariat to talk to stakeholders in the field about their views on evidence. They have produced a video blog “The Use of Evidence Synthesis in the Humanitarian Field” to present the experience with evidence of two of the GESI Secretariat’s main national stakeholders in the humanitarian field.
One of these is Mr Hussein Ismail, a humanitarian expert who, after four years of field work, was interested in focusing on the “evidence part of the humanitarian field”. He noticed the gap between what is implemented and what is published online by academic researchers. In his opinion, humanitarian practitioners need to learn more about humanitarian evidence and be more exposed to methods such as systematic and scoping reviews. He believes that this will help them to take better strategic decisions when planning interventions, and to identify those areas for which evidence is needed but lacking.
This is reflected in the actions discussed by the other stakeholder in the video blog. In 2016, the Lebanese Red Cross took a decision to shift from an experienced-based to an evidence-based approach, hoping to “improve effectiveness and efficiency of their services”, decrease the response time, measure their performance, and implement changes. They are now working on implementing this across their activities and one of their volunteers, Dr Shawky Amine Eddine, highlights how “it takes a system to save a life, not any system but one that relies on solid evidence”.