Webinar series: COVID-19 & Humanitarian Settings




 webinar series slider 3 (1).png


The READY Initiative, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the Centre for Humanitarian Health at Johns Hopkins University and the Centre of Education and Research in Humanitarian Action are hosting a weekly webinar series on COVID-19 and humanitarian settings. The webinars will take place on Wednesdays from 8–9am EST (2-3pm CET).

Please note that webinars are password protected. You can find the webinar password in the Zoom details for each webinar at the bottom of the invitation.

To complement this initiative, COVID-19 Humanitarian, an open access, web-based platform, has been created to promote and value the collection and sharing of field-based COVID-19 programme adaptations and innovations, facilitating learning among organizations in different sectors and contexts.



COVID-19 Surveillance in Humanitarian Settings

Wednesday, 3 June 2020, 8-9am EDT/1-2pm BST/2-3pm CEST


COVID-19 surveillance in humanitarian settings is challenging due to many reasons, including insecurity, insufficient supplies and tests, and limited human and financial capacity. Countries and organizations have decided upon different surveillance strategies at the health facility and community levels, depending on their context. This webinar will provide information on surveillance together with examples from Jordan and Lebanon.


Oliver Morgan, Ph.D., MSc, FFPH, WHO Health Emergencies Program

Dr. Oliver Morgan is the Director of the Health Emergency Information and Risk Assessment Department in the WHO Health Emergencies Program. From 2007 through 2016, Dr. Morgan worked for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during which time he held critical leadership positions in the Ebola response.


Niluka Wijekoon, M.D., WHO Health Emergencies Program

Dr. Niluka Wijekoon is a Medical Epidemiologist with the Health Emergencies Program at WHO headquarters in Geneva, in the Department of Health Information Management and Risk Assessment. Dr Wijekoon is a technical expert in surveillance, early warning, alert and response in emergency settings.

Heba Hayek, Pharm.D., UNHCR

Dr. Heba Hayek has a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Jordan with a Master in Public Health degree from Emory University, Atlanta. She has experience in public health focusing on health information systems. Dr. Hayek has been working with UNHCR in the public health unit in Jordan for nearly seven years, focusing on the Syrian and Iraqi refugee situation. 

Naomi Ngaruiya, R.N., Kenya Red Cross Society

Ms. Naomi Ngaruiya is a Registered Community Health Nurse with a Master’s degree in Programme Planning & Management and Development Economics. She has diverse knowledge in community health services and interventions, having served in humanitarian organizations for the last 20 years coordinating varied community health interventions.  

Please note that due to increased security threats, we are restricting user functions for this and future webinars. Registration is required for this webinar, and participants will not be permitted to unmute or screen-share. We also encourage participants to update their Zoom installation to the latest version, before joining this webinar. 

Register in advance for this webinar:



After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar, and have the option to add the webinar to your calendar.





The Next Crisis Wave of COVID-19: Impacts on household food security and nutrition and preparedness considerations

27 May 2020

As the world focuses on responding to the first wave of COVID-19, we must recognize the next crisis wave: the impacts of the pandemic on household food security and nutrition. As disruptions to markets, food systems, and health services are felt critically by households around the world, we invited experts and field practitioners to discuss projections related to food and nutrition security as well as ways we are adapting to both measure and respond to these shocks.


Mija-tesse Ververs, Center for Humanitarian Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Emergency Response and Recovery Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Since 2016, Mija Ververs has been working at the Center for Humanitarian Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and is a visiting health scientist with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Her field of expertise lies in nutrition, public health, food security, and infectious diseases. Mija has over 35 years of experience and has worked with more than 15 organizations varying from international NGOs, IFRC, ICRC, various UN agencies, and government and academic institutions. Mija has worked in over 25 countries affected by conflict or natural disasters.

Sarah O’Flynn, Director of Emergency Nutrition, Save the Children

Sarah has spent the last 12 years focusing on the nutritional health of children, pregnant and breastfeeding women in emergencies with a focus on response programming, capacity strengthening, and operations research. Sarah has supported emergency responses in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa and North America after managing field programs in Sudan and South Sudan.

Expert Speakers

Allison Oman Lawi, Deputy Divisional Director for Nutritional Operations, Analysis, and Integration, World Food Programme

Allison has worked for WFP for the last six years as the Senior Regional Nutrition Advisor for East, Horn and Central Africa, based in Nairobi. Previous WFP work includes evaluating projects in Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Eritrea and Darfur. She began her nutrition work in 1996 with MSF in Uganda and her UN career one year later with UNHCR in Ethiopia. Allison has worked for UNHCR at different points in her career, with her last position as the Nutrition and Food Security Advisor for the East and Horn of Africa from 2008-2014.

Alexandra Rutishauser-Perera, Head of Nutrition, Action Against Hunger UK

Alexandra has been working in the humanitarian field for the past 14 years, focusing on public health nutrition in diverse settings (emergency and development) in more than 20 countries across Africa and Asia. She has worked with various NGOs, such as MSF, IMC, and Save the Children, before joining Action Against Hunger UK. Alexandra manages a team of nutrition assessment specialists, is a member of the strategic advisory group of the Global Nutrition Cluster, and co-chairs the Global Technical Assistance Mechanism on Nutrition Information Systems.

Kate Golden, Senior Nutrition Advisor, Concern Worldwide

Kate has been working in nutrition programming and response in the developing world for roughly 15 years. She has worked in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Lebanon, and since 2006 she has supported nutrition programming, strategy development, and emergency response to about 15 countries across Africa and Asia as a global nutrition advisor. She is currently based in Beirut, Lebanon.

The recording of this webinar is available here.


COVID-19: Magnifying Gender Inequalities

20 May 2020

Yeva Avakyan from Save the Children and select panelists had a fruitful conversation about the impact of COVID-19 on gender equality. Initially labelled the ‘great equalizer,’ the COVID-19 pandemic is anything but. Anchoring the discussion in the feminist perspective, speakers discussed how power hierarchies exacerbate inequalities during a crisis, including the ‘shadow pandemic’ of gender-based violence. Colleagues from East Africa and Middle East shared examples of programme adaptation in humanitarian contexts. The panelists shared practical actions and discuss lessons learned in gender equitable program response to COVID-19.


 Yeva Avakyan, Associate Vice-President, Gender Equality, Save the Children

Expert Speakers

  • Dr Michelle Lokot, Research Fellow, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Alina Potts, Research Scientist, Global Women’s Institute, George Washington University
  • Dorcas Acen, Gender Equality and GBV Advisor, Save the Children East and Southern Africa
  •  Cansu Aydin, Gender and Protection Manager, CARE International Iraq

The recording of this webinar is available here.

Additional resources referenced in this webinar:



WASH and COVID-19 in Humanitarian Settings: How can we improve hygiene behaviors?

13 May 2020

The seventh webinar focussed on "WASH and COVID-19 in Humanitarian Settings: How can we improve hygiene behaviors?". The webinar's speakers discussed community-level preventative behaviors for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in crisis-affected settings. In particular, speakers focused on handwashing promotion and physical distancing measures in these challenging settings. The webinar started with a global overview on why these behaviors can be challenging to promote in crisis-affected settings and provide some practical solutions. We then heard two case studies which shared examples of current work and the challenges of implementing preventative programs in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Syria.
Dr. Les Roberts, Columbia University
Les Roberts is a Professor at Columbia University’s Program on Forced Migration and Health. He holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering and completed a post-doctorate fellowship in epidemiology at the Centers for Disease Control’s Refugee Health Unit. Les was the Director of Health Policy at the International Rescue Committee from 1999-2003.  He has been involved in the fieldwork of over 50 mortality surveys in conflict settings including in DRC, Zimbabwe, CAR, and Iraq. His present research focuses on developing statistically representative community-based surveillance methodologies. 
Expert Speakers
Sian WhiteLondon School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Sian is a behavior change scientist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She specializes in WASH program design in crisis-affected settings. Sian recently helped set up the COIVD-19 Hygiene Hub, which is a free service to help actors in low- and middle-income countries rapidly share, design, and adapt evidence-based hygiene interventions to combat coronavirus. For the last four years, Sian has been the lead researcher on the Wash’Em project, which enables humanitarians to rapidly design context-adapted hygiene programs in crises. Sian holds a Master of Public Health degree in Developing Countries and is currently completing her Ph.D.based on research in Iraq and DRC.
Caroline Muturi, Oxfam
Caroline is part of Oxfam’s Global Humanitarian Support Personnel and specializes in WASH. She is currently supporting local teams in DR Congo, Bangladesh, and India for COVID-19 response. Caroline is a water engineer and holds a Master’s degree in water management. In recent years she has broadened her technical scope to cover behavior change communication and community engagement during outbreaks.

Dr. Hani Taleb, Relief Experts Association
Hani is the CEO of Relief Experts Association (UDER), a health-focused NGO operating in Northwest Syria (NWS). He has overseen emergency health programs since 2011 with the International Rescue Committee, Relief International, Medical Teams International, and other Syrian NGOs. He is a member of the COVID-19 health taskforce leading the response in NWS, and he is leading the Corona Awareness Team which is formed by organizations working on enhancing community-based preventive measures against COVID-19. He is a doctor in dental surgery and holds postgraduate diplomas in orthodontics, public health, and health management.

The recording of this webinar is available here.




6 May 2020

This webinar tackled the difficult but central issue of how to manage COVID-19 patients in humanitarian responses and low-income settings. We discussed decision-making on which services to offer and dilemmas to consider, and hear from a real-life scenario treating patients in Sudan.


Dr. Rohini Haar, University of California Berkeley School of Public Health

Dr. Haar is a lecturer in epidemiology at Berkeley Public Health, a research fellow at the Human Rights Center of the School of Law at UC Berkeley, and a practicing emergency physician. She received her MD from the University of Chicago and her MPH from the Columbia University School of Public Health. Her research focusses on health and human rights, as well as violence against healthcare in conflict settings. She has a longstanding association with Physicians for Human Rights.


Dr. Bhargavi Rao, Médecins Sans Frontières Operational Centre, Amsterdam

Dr. Rao is currently the clinical focal point for COVID-19 response in Médecins Sans Frontières Operational Centre Amsterdam (MSF-OCA), but she is usually the Malaria and Infectious Diseases Specialist based at the Manson Unit (London).  She has worked on infectious diseases programming across varied contexts including South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, India, and Venezuela as well as in the UK. She is a medical doctor with a PhD in infectious disease epidemiology from Imperial College London.

Expert Speakers

Dr. Louisa Baxter, Save the Children, London

Dr. Baxter is currently lead for humanitarian health at Save the Children UK, overseeing their global humanitarian health responses. She is a UK trained medical and public health physician with a special interest in infectious diseases and outbreaks. At present she is also supporting the UK domestic COVID response as part of the London COVID Response Cell. Louisa has a Masters’ Degree in Public Heath from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a Master’s degree in Governance form the London School of Economics.

Dr. Momen Mukhtar Abdalla, Al Shaab Hospial, Khartoum, Sudan

Dr Momen is a consultant pulmonologist at Al Shaab Hospital in Khartoum and the head of the Sudanese Chest Physician Association. He is currently a member of the COVID-19 case management committee for the Federal Ministry of Health of Sudan.

The recording of this webinar is available here.



29 April 2020

Recent reports and provisional modeling by UN agencies and the WHO estimate that the number of cases and lives lost in Africa due to COVID-19 could surge within 3-6 months. Urban populations are of particular concern since the majority lives in overcrowded neighborhoods, while unreliable access to hand-washing facilities and widespread rumors and misinformation are challenges in both rural and urban settings. Sharon Reader, Senior Advisor Community Engagement and Accountability, IFRC Africa Regional Office, and Sharath Srinivasan, co-founder and Senior Advisor, Africa's Voices Foundation discussed the work they are doing to understand the concerns, perceptions, and misinformation barriers to practicing preventative behaviors Sub-Saharan African countries, and what is being done to address them.


  • Kathryn Bertram, Social Behavior Change Advisor, READY, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Communication Programs

Expert Speakers

  • Sharath Srinivasan, Co-founder and Senior Advisor, Africa’s Voices Foundation
  • Sharon Reader, Community Engagement and Accountability, IFRC Africa Regional Office

The recording of this webinar is available here.


Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for COVID-19

22 April 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and related public health measures have profound effects on the mental health and emotional wellbeing of people all over the world. In humanitarian settings, the pandemic leads to increased demand for mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) interventions, and strains existing MHPSS programming. Drs. Peter Ventevogel, Fahmy Hanna and Florence Baingana explored how MHPSS issues in pandemic settings can be addressed, drawing upon field examples from COVID-19 and past outbreaks, including the West Africa Ebola epidemic.

Moderator: Dr. Ron Waldman, Professor, George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health

Expert Speakers:

  • Dr. Peter Ventevogel, Senior Mental Health Officer, Public Health Section, Division of Resilience and Solutions, UNHCR
  • Dr. Fahmy Hanna, Technical Officer, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, WHO
  • Dr. Florence Baingana, Technical Consultant, Mental Health Policy, Planning and Programming 

 With field experience from:

  • Deborah Magdalena, Coordinator Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Working Group, Maiduguri, Nigeria
  • Mahmuda Mahmuda, Assistant Psychosocial & Mental Health Officer, UNHCR Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

The recording of this webinar is available here.

Programme Prioritization and Adaptation in COVID-19 Times

15 April 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many systemic deficiencies in outbreak preparedness and response capacities across the world, and has posed significant challenges to program implementation and service delivery. Dr. Michelle Gayer, Emergency Health Director, IRC, and select panelists discussed some of the challenges faced by humanitarian agencies and innovative ideas for programme adaptation to circumvent these challenges.

Moderator: Paul Spiegel, Professor and Director of Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health

Expert Speaker:

  • Dr. Michelle Gayer, Emergency Health Director, International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Field Speakers:

  • Muhammad Fawad, IRC Health Coordinator, Jordan
  • Darren Hertz, IRC Country Director, Thailand

The video of this webinar is available here.


COVID-19: Can we really learn from past outbreaks?

8 April 2020

During this webinar, speakers discussed various lessons emerging from past global outbreaks of infectious disease through multiple perspectives and disciplines, from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2005, to H1N1 in 2009, to the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, each of which marked a milestone in the history of infectious diseases. They synthesized what information has surfaced from these challenges to inform efforts to strengthen governance and response in today’s COVID-19 pandemic.

Moderator: Prof Karl Blanchet, Geneva Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action


  • Sharon Abramowitz, PhD, Consultant to UNICEF C4D
  • Ngozi Erondu, PhD, Associated Fellow, Global Health Programme, Chatham House
  • Marc Dubois, Independent Humanitarian Consultant and Senior Fellow at SOAS, University of London.

The video of this webinar is available here.

 Shielding high-risk populations against COVID-19

1 April, 2020 

The first webinar of the series focused on shielding high-risk populations against COVID-19. 

Moderator: Prof Paul Spiegel, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health


  • Francesco Checchi, Professor of Epidemiology and International Health at LSHTM
  • David Skinner, Save the Children Team Leader for Rohingya Response. 

The webinar presented a range of guiding principles for protecting the most vulnerable (e.g., high-risk individuals in conflict settings) from COVID-19 infection in a safe and dignified manner until COVID-19 can be controlled or a vaccine/treatment options become available. 

The video of the webinar is available here.