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The contribution of faith-based organisations and local faith communities to the development agenda is now increasingly studied and widely debated.  Does religion help or hinder development? How should faith-based NGOs frame the work they do? What about impartiality, independence and neutrality?

IIHD News - 2015

Welcome to our dedicated News area where you will find all the latest updates from IIHD as well as archive news.

You can also find details of IIHD Events here

Alumni News

All News 2015

Archive News 2014

Archive News 2013

Archive News 2012

04 November 2015 IIHD to convene briefing on Refugee Integration: Framing the Scottish response in Scottish Parliament

On the evening of 17 November, Queen Margaret University’s Institute for International Health and Development (IIHD) will convene a briefing distilling insights from research conducted by IIHD and others to inform those in Scotland considering how to deal with the current refugee crisis in Europe. This event will be held at the Scottish Parliament, sponsored by John Mason, MSP.

IIHD’s Director, Dr Alastair Ager, has worked extensively in conflict areas to address the humanitarian and protection needs of refugees. Dr Alison Strang of the Institute is also a widely recognised expert on the subject and a member of the newly formed Scottish Government Refugee Taskforce.

This event is by invitation only. For further information, please email Janice Burr at the Institute for International Health and Development at Queen Margaret University (0131 474 0000).

22 October 2015 IIHD Director, Alastair Ager leads 'Health Systems Resilience: A Systems Analysis research project

Researchers at QMU, Edinburgh, Columbia University, New York and University of the Western Cape in South Africa have been helping health workers working in contexts of crisis to identify ways of maintaining health services in the face of major adversity. In settings such as Gaza in the Middle East and in northern Nigeria, where insurgency from Boko Haram has created major insecurity, researchers have been developing a participatory methodology which assists in identifying the complex consequences of disruption (such as patients delaying coming for treatment or shortages of drugs) and ways to address them.

Research lead, Professor Alastair Ager, Director of the Institute for Global Health and Development at QMU, believes the methodology is an important advance in identifying sources of resiliency. “Building a ‘systems model’ of the complex and challenging situation health workers find themselves brings deep insights into how issues can combine to create a ‘viscous spiral’ threatening the delivery of services. The approach moves beyond just identifying problems to suggest ways of protecting services and building resilience”.

Download guide here

07 October 2015 Displaced youth a common thread in refugee crisis says Alastair Ager in Scotsman Article
05 October 2015 Exhibition at QMU celebrating women researchers and their work, featuring Dr Alison Strang and Dr Karina Kielmann from IIHD

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22 September 2015 New publication by IIHD graduate Nnanna Ugwu and Bregje de Kok on barriers to caesarean section in Nigeria.

The paper is based on Ugwu's fieldwork for his Msc in Sexual and Reproductive Health. It explains why, in contexts marked by strong gender and religious ideologies, providing comprehensive emergency obstetric care is not enough to prevent maternal mortality. Read paper

21 September 2015 Community-based practitioner programmes provide a cost-effective means of delivering health interventions finds IIHD research team

Community Health Worker


Community-based practitioners that operate within an integrated team supported by the health system provide a cost-effective means to deliver essential health interventions. This is the major finding of a research study conducted by QMU researchers and colleagues reported this month in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization. The work, evaluating programmes in Ethiopia, Indonesia and Kenya shows that community-based practitioner programmes represent value-for-money, particularly in rural poor communities that have limited access to more qualified health professionals.

Dr Ijeoma Edoka, one of the research team led by Professor Barbara McPake, noted that while community-based practitioner programs are cost-effective in delivery of essential health interventions, they should not be viewed as low-cost alternatives to the provision of standard health care. View report in the bulletin of WHO

See also the companion article in HRH Journal

14 September 2015 IIHD involvement in weekend of support and solidarity for refugees in Scotland

Last weekend's activities in support of refugees had a strong IIHD presence. 

IIHD's Dr Alison Strang was the opening speaker at the vigil at the Scottish parliament on Saturday and spoke on relevant issues and questions. Alison has been key to the development of the Scottish Refugee Integration Strategy and is now on the Scottish government task force on refugees which is dealing with the current crisis.

Alison Strang outside Scottish Parliament

She was followed Alastair Ager, IIHD director who gave some amazing examples of places that are taking in large numbers of refugees in neighbouring countries and how they cope with those numbers as well as raising other pertinent issues.

Refugees in Scotland Vigile Scottish Parliament

IIHD is very proud that one of the main organisers was an IIHD alumni, Kirsten Unger who studied at QMU in 2004. A number of students and IIHD folk were also in attendance.

In Portobello an amazing collection of goods was collected to send to Calais all initiated by IIHD alumni Emma Dempsey.

Great stuff!


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10 September 2015 IIHD Postgraduate Distance Learning Modules for 2016

IIHD at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh would like to draw your attention to our postgraduate distance learning modules for 2016:  Research Design and Proposal Writing and Psychosocial Interventions for Displaced Populations. Both modules are accredited by the tropEd network.  They can be taken as postgraduate course for credits (5 ECTS/15 SCOTCAT), or as CPD. 

Research Design and Proposal Writing by Distance Learning

Are you keen to develop small-scale research in the area of global health and development? In this module you acquire skills to conceptualise, plan, and write up a coherent and convincing research proposal. In addition to state-of-the-art online teaching materials and interactive tools, we provide you with accessible, supportive, and personalised written and oral feedback while you work through the web-based module units.

At the end of the module, you will have developed a research proposal that can be used as part of your academic studies, or in conjunction with your work in the fields of global health and development (broadly defined).

Partial scholarships and limited places available.

Download flyer

Psychosocial Interventions for Displaced Populations by Distance Learning

This module is intended for people who have an interest in the psychosocial wellbeing of children, youth and adults who are displaced through armed conflict, natural disaster or other causes. Participants on this module have tended to be either people who are keen to become involved in this field or who already have experience of working in the humanitarian aid field and want to develop further skills.

At the end of this module you will have obtained a grounding in the main approaches to providing mental health and psychosocial support and their underlying theoretical concepts as well as skills and knowledge in relation to the practice of psychosocial interventions.


Download flyer

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08 September 2015 IIHD's Doctorial Student, Keven Bermudez to lead major child protection initiative in Central African Republic (CAR)

Keven will be managing and coordinating the implementation of COOPI’s UNICEF-funded ($330.000.00) child protection project titled: “Promotion of a protective environment in the cities of Obo and Zemio, Haut Mbomou Prefecture, Central African Republic”, which, principally, aims to support the reintegration of 80 boys and girls released from Joseph Kony’s Lord Resistance Army (LRA). This rebel group has been active in the cross-border area between south-eastern CAR and north-eastern DRC since 2008, attacking villages, destroying fields, and recruiting children to serve as combatants, porters and sexual slaves. Attacks or the threat of attacks by this group have prompted massive population displacement in the region, which is now concentrated around the cities of Obo and Zemio.

Additional direct beneficiaries of this project will be 300 survivors of GBV and other types of violence, 10 members of a local NGO called A.F.A.S.V.E.R. who will be trained to implement child reintegration and protection activities, 100 community leaders, and community members sensitised on prevention of child recruitment in fighting groups and fighting forces. 

The main objective of this project is to provide a holistic assistance package for children formerly associated with this fighting group in order to facilitate their rehabilitation and reintegration in their communities of origin or in those communities they choose to live in.

Keven Bermudez

Congratulations and good luck to Keven Bermudez, IIHD PhD Student

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04 September 2015 IIHD's Dr Alison Strang, an expert in integrating asylum seekers and refugees in Scotland, comments on the current refugee crisis in today's Daily Record.

Read the article here. Alison also attended a summit on the crisis in the Scottish Parliament with the First Minister today. More news to follow.

Dr Alison Strang
01 September 2015 IIHD's Director, Alastair Ager is guest speaker on 'Faith and Development?' at Edinburgh's Fringe event
'justfestival' 2015

Professor Alastair Ager was an invited speaker at a recent Edinburgh Fringe event ('justfestival') as part of a discussion group entitled 'Faith and Development?'

The contribution of faith-based organisations and local faith communities to the development agenda is now increasingly studied and widely debated.  Does religion help or hinder development? How should faith-based NGOs frame the work they do? What about impartiality, independence and neutrality?

Read review here

25 August 2015 IIHD lecturer, Oonagh O'Brien appointed lead research on FGM/C in Scotland

Oonagh O’Brien from International Institute for Health and Development has been appointed lead researcher on a project to assess attitudes towards Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in communities potentially affected by FGM/C in Scotland. The work, which is funded from the Violence Against Women and Girls Fund  in the Scottish Government Equality unit, is led by two voluntary sector organisations, the Dignity Alert Research Forum (DARF) and ROSHNI

Both organisations have a portfolio of work on the impact of FGM/C in Scotland.  This research will inform the development of appropriate prevention interventions and awareness raising.  The research will use participatory methodologies and work with communities in the central belt of Scotland.  A number of IIHD alumni and students are active in campaigning against FGM/C in Scotland and internationally, in particular Fatou Baldeh who maintains a high profile in the local press and with the Scottish Government.

Fatou Baldeh, IIHD Alumni

IIHD Alumni, Fatou Baldeh gives evidence at FGM Inquiry at the Scottish Parliament

20 August 2015 Development of innovative e-learning and teaching through strategic partnerships in global health education

IIHD has, together with the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT, Amsterdam) and the Centre for International Health (University of Bergen), succeeded in obtaining significant Erasmus+ funding for the above project. Funding of €371,000 will support the development of joint distance and blended teaching materials to meet the growing demands for global health education within and outside of Europe. Read more...

11 August 2015 Research from IIHD Professors Sophie Witter and Barbara McPake has shown Ebola seems to be a particular risk in conflict affected contexts, Conflict and Health

Ebola in the context of conflict affected states and health systems: case studies of Northern Uganda and Sierra Leone. Link to Case Study

05 August 2015 The free healthcare initiative: how has it affected health workers in Sierra Leone? - Article from IIHD's Sophie Witter and Maria Paolo Bertone, Oxford Journals

Link to Article

05 August 2015 Two articles from IIHD's Sophie Witter and Maria Paolo Bertone, Human Resources for Health

The complex remuneration of human resources for health in low-income settings: policy implications and a research agenda for designing effective financial incentives.

Link to Article

State-building and human resources for health in fragile and conflict-affected states: exploring the linkages

Link to Article

05 August 2015 District Political Economy in Sierra Leone - Article from IIHD's Sophie Witter and Maria Paola Bertone, Social Science and Medicine

An exploration of the political economy dynamics shaping health worker incentives in three districts in Sierra Leone.

Link to Article

24 July 2015 Agenda: We must disrupt existing patterns of life to improve the life chances of all says IIHD's Director, Alastair Ager
20 July 2015 IIHD lecturer, Bregje de Kok presents two papers at the conference of the International Society for Critical Health Psychology in Grahamstown, South Africa

Bregje de Kok, lecturer at IIHD recently presented two papers at the conference of the International Society for Critical Health Psychology in Grahamstown, South Africa.

The conference theme was health, care and social justice.

Read about the highlights on IIHD's Blog

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Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
06 July 2015 Global health leader (IIHD's Alastair Ager) argues humanitarianism needs religion

Professor Alastair Ager, the new Director of the Institute for International Health and Development at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh argues that, despite religious differences, local religious groups have a positive role to play in supporting refugees and others who receive humanitarian aid.

Press Release

14 May 2015 QMU hosts successful awareness day for victims of Nepal Earthquake

Humza Yousaf, Minister for Europe and International Development supports University’s Nepalese Earthquake event

Press Release

Images from Flickr

STV Media Summary

Read more on how IIHD Alumni are providing a lifeline for hard to reach villages.


IIHD Facebook

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Professor Alan Gilloran, Deputy Principal of QMU, Edinburgh with Humza Yousaf, Scottish Minister for Europe and International Development and Nepalese students
Professor Alan Gilloran, Deputy Principal of QMU, Edinburgh with Humza Yousaf, Scottish Minister for Europe and International Development and Nepalese students

Bimu Sharma, Nepalese student studying international health at Queen Margaret University
Bimu Sharma, Nepalese student studying international health at Queen Margaret University

Bimu's personal story

12 May 2015 IIHD Student Bimu Sharma tells the Evening News about fears for her family after the Nepal Earthquake

IIHD MSc Student (International Health), Bimu Sharma has spoken to the Evening News about her worries for her family in Nepal.

Read Bimu's Interview

IIHD Facebook

IIHD Blog - updates from Alumni and Colleagues in Nepal

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Bimu Sharma, IIHD Student
Bimu Sharma, IIHD Student

27 April 2015 IIHD providing support to Nepal Earthquake through MHPSS Network

IIHD is getting involved through its community via Facebook and through the The Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Network (MHPSS), our QMU-based network which promotes better mental health and community support in humanitarian emergencies via an online platform that allows people and organisations to share resources, build knowledge and develop the skills required to respond to the  impact of conflict, disaster and chronic adversity.

The MPHSS has set up a Nepal 2015 Earthquake Response Group, which colleagues can join here


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02 April 2015 New Scots: Integrating Refugees in Scotland's Communities: Year 1: Implementation Progress Report

New Scots: Integrating Refugees in Scotland's Communities: Year 1: Implementation Progress

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Alison Strang, Senior Lecturer with IIHD, Chair of the core group says:

"We are pleased to share with you this report documenting the progress achieved in the first year of the implementation of the national refugee integration strategy, New Scots: Integrating Refugees in Scotland’s Communities. We celebrate the forging
of effective cross sector, collaborative relationships and we can begin to see the fruits of these in the delivery of actions within this plan."



New Scots year 1 Conference on Flickr:

youtube: Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights

youtube: Councillor Archie Graham, Depute Leader, Glasgow City Council

21 March 2015 IIHD Senior Lecturer, Karina Kielmann attends Center for International Health (CIH) Public Health Symposium in Germany
Beyond the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - Challenges and perspectives of Health Systems

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11 March 2015 IIHD PhD students invited to mark Commonwealth Day at The Scottish Parliament

Commonwealth Day 2015 was marked in the Scottish Parliament with a round-table discussion of university student representatives from all over Scotland. Blessings Kachale and Vikash Kumar, both PhD students from IIHD, were invited to represent QMU at this roundtable, and debated the theme ‘Violence against women and girls: Scotland’s response’.

The discussion focused on human rights, FGM and the involvement of men in awareness raising campaigns. It was attended by the four MSPs representing the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Scotland Branch. This was followed by a debate in Parliament and a reception to celebrate Commonwealth Day.

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09 March 2015 Alastair Ager presents at Royal Society of Medicine meeting on Syria's health
Professor Alastair Ager, who takes up the position of Director of IIHD in July, was invited to  present at a closed expert policy roundtable workshop at the Royal Society of Medicine on 9 March 2015 on the current situation in Syria: ‘Syria’s health: assessing the response and future challenges’ brought together researchers and humanitarian leaders to review health issues ranging from infectious disease control to management of chronic disease and mental health. Professor Ager presented on impact evaluations from Iraq and Jordan showing the effectiveness of programming in protecting the well-being of children displaced by the ongoing conflict. The meeting was organized by the Royal Society of Medicine and the Public Health in Humanitarian Crisis Group of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Professor Alastair Ager will take up the position of Director of IIHD in July
Alastair in interview with Bregje de Kok

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07 March 2015 Queen Margaret University/IIHD represented at International Women’s day event in Champigny sur Marne, France Friday 7th March 2015

Oonagh O'Brien, Lecturer IIHD

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Queen Margaret University (IIHD) was delighted to have participated in the celebrations of International Women’s Day, organised as part of the Twin Town association between Musselburgh and Champigny sur Marne near Paris in France.

Oonagh O’Brien a Lecturer in the Institute for International Health and Development and an expert on gender studies, spoke on the negative impacts of gender inequality on health and included some of the work being carried out by the Institute in sub Saharan Africa and Asia as well as Scotland.  She joined representatives from other twin towns of Champigny including a representative from the French organisation "Solidarité femmes Kobané" a women’s group who are developing solidarity with Kurdish women involved in the struggle to defend their town Kobane in Syria in the current conflict and an activist from the Palestinian group Sunflower, based in Hebron on the west Bank.

The event was introduced by the deputy mayor of Champigny sur Marne, Isabel Flores-Racmachers.

23 February 2015 IIHD Senior Lecturer, Karina Kielmann's publication on the impact of ART on home-based carers in Zambia is highlighted in UNAIDS Science Now

‘Deep down in their heart, they wish they could be given some incentives’: a qualitative study on the changing roles and relations of care among home-based caregivers in Zambia.

Cataldo F, Kielmann K, Kielmann T, Mburu G, Musheke M. BMC Health Serv Res. 2015 Jan

Background: Across sub-Saharan Africa, the roll-out of antiretroviral treatment (ART) has contributed to shifting HIV care towards management of a chronic health condition.

While the balance of professional and lay tasks in HIV care-giving has been significantly altered due to changing skills requirements and task-shifting initiatives, little attention has been given to the effects of these changes on health workers’ motivation and existing care relations.

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Karina Kielmann, Senior Lecturer, IIHD

Full Article

18 February 2015 IIHD Senior Lecturer, Karina Kielmann and Fabian Cataldo present review at World Bank, Washington

Together with Fabian Cataldo, Karina Kielmann has been working on a synthesis review of the qualitative research conducted within evaluations of results-based financing (RBF) schemes in the health sector of a number of African countries including Nigeria, Zimbabwe, DRC, Zambia, and Cameroon.  The RBF schemes are commissioned under the Health Results Innovation Trust Fund (HRITF), supported by the Governments of the UK through the Department of International Development (DfID) and Norway through NORAD and administered through the World Bank.  Drs Cataldo and Kielmann presented their review at a meeting on February 18th at the World Bank in Washington. This was followed up by a full day’s training to provide guidance on strengthening the place and added value of qualitative research in evaluation for researchers and programme implementers. A further meeting to report results of the synthesis will follow at the DfID head office in London in May. 


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06 January 2015 New Year - New Director for IIHD!

Professor Alastair Ager joins QMU as Director of the Institute of International Health and Development from July 2015. Alastair is currently Professor of Population and Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University in New York, where he leads a doctoral programme on Leadership in Global Health & Humanitarian Systems supporting mid-career professionals in leadership development. A major focus of his research is evaluation of humanitarian programming for refugee children (funded by DFID, the Wellcome Trust, UNICEF and World Vision), which currently involves studies of Somalis displaced to Ethiopia, Congolese displaced to Uganda and Syrians displaced to Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. His current research also addresses health systems resilience in contexts of adversity (studies in the Middle East, West and South Africa (funded by UNRWA and DFID, through a ReBUILD sub-award) and the engagement of local faith communities in humanitarian response (through a Luce Foundation award addressing local faith group engagement with refugees in Irbid, Jordan).

Professor Alastair Ager speaks with Dr Bregje de Kok about why he is looking forward to becoming the new Director of IIHD @Queen Margaret University

Alastair has worked in the field of international health and development for over twenty-five years, after originally training in psychology at the universities of Keele, Wales and Birmingham in the UK. He was formerly Head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Malawi, Director of the Centre for International Health Studies at Queen Margaret, and Senior Research Manager for the UK Department for International Development, with responsibility for the agency's global portfolio of health and education research. He has wide international experience as a lecturer, researcher and consultant across sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia, Europe and North America, working with a range of intergovernmental, non-governmental and governmental agencies.

He is a Board Member of the Antares Foundation (supporting the well-being of humanitarian workers), a member of the Funding Committee of the DFID and Wellcome Trust-funded Research in Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) initiative and co-chair of the learning hub on resilience of the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities. He is author of over one hundred scholarly publications. He will retain his academic affiliation with Columbia University on re-joining QMU, with a view to facilitating research collaboration.

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Alastair Ager joining IIHD

Professor Alastair Ager, IIHD Director from July 2015

Recent papers:

The co-construction of medical humanitarianism: analysis of personal, organizationally condoned narratives (Social Science & Medicine, with Melina Iacovou)

Resilience and child well-being: Public policy implications (Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry).

Forthcoming book: Faith, Secularism and Humanitarian Engagement (Palgrave, with J Ager)


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