Institute for Research in International Assistance (IRIA)

Crises, disasters and conflict situations increase globally, both in frequency and intensity. Crises become more and more complex, be it acute situations like earthquakes or outbreaks/epidemics or chronic catastrophes like tuberculosis or drought. To ensure the development of short-term and long-term answers and solutions to the increasing and imminent questions of humanitarian and development aid, Akkon University founded a research institute dedicated to further interdisciplinary and collaborative research in this neglected field.

The Institute for Research in International Assistance (IRIA) at Akkon University focuses on general questions in humanitarian and development aid and thus provides scientific basis for respective political and social debates. In particular, the institute deals with the following urgent research questions in health:

  • Restructuring global health to reach the sustainable development goals
  • Civil-military collaboration in humanitarian and development aid
  • Global health security/Diplomacy
  • Health care systems in transition, especially in Eastern Europe, Middle East, Central Asia and Subsahara Africa
  • One health/Planetary health
  • Fighting (re-)emerging infectious diseases
  • Training & education of local actors and decision-makers

The projects are financed by third-party funding, e.g. the Federal Ministry of Health, the State Department, the German Research Foundation (DFG) and GIZ. However, IRIA will have to be co-financed by additional partners, and thus we invite you to join and support the basic idea of improving research in humanitarian and development aid!

07.04.2021: 3rd International Young Researchers´ Symposium on Global Health on the occasion of World Tuberculosis Day 2021

3rd International Young Researchers´ Symposium on Global Health
on the occasion of World Tuberculosis Day 2021

A great two-day virtual event with a special focus on Africa and Yemen
On March 24-25th, 2021 Akkon University for Human Sciences with its Institute for Research in International Assistance (IRIA) and Koch Metchnikoff Forum (KMF) hosted the 3rd "International Young Researchers' Symposium on Global Health" on the occasion of World Tuberculosis Day 2021. With regular high-level events of this kind, IRIA brings together the Institute's and the University's experts with international key players working in the fields of health systems, global health, as well as policy research and practice.

3rd International Young Researchers’ Symposium in Global Health

Strategies for the "New Normal"
This forum had to take place as an online event - due to the Corona pandemic. This virtual approach can be directly related to one of the core topics of the symposium: Strategies for the “New Normal” in times of global health crises. The first module of the symposium, the 14th Scientific Symposium on the occasion of the World Tuberculosis Day 2021, dealt with “The impact of the Corona pandemic on TB epidemiology, and lessons learned.” More than 20 TB scientists from Georgia, Russia and Ukraine, who already know each other personally from years of collaboration and other events of Akkon University and IRIA, shared experience and knowledge for the first time virtually.

More participants, more countries
The number of participants could be increased at the subsequent two-day Young Researchers' Symposium with around 50 participants, including 30 presenting representatives, scientists and young researchers from Canada, Germany, Ghana, Iran, Russia, Uganda, Ukraine, USA/Antigua and Yemen. Ghana, Uganda, Canada and Yemen are new attendees; Ukraine, Russia, USA/Antigua and Iran are already familiar partners. An international team of experts, alumnis, students and staff of Akkon University, and stakeholders, including the Robert Koch Institute, German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), German-Yemeni Medical Association (DJAEV), and Ukraine Network were present. The focus of the symposium was on Africa and represents a breakthrough for Akkon/IRIA into concrete and prospering cooperation with various countries on the continent. This is what The West African Science and Technology (WAST) Center stands for. It will seek to bridge the yawning deficit in the quality of trained Biomedical/Clinical engineers and Public Health Researchers. The WAST/IRIA AWARD was given to the Best graduating female biomedical engineering student, sponsored by the Göhde Foundation. Yemen is also of great importance, as IRIA has already been strongly involved here with two exemplary projects (Health System Strengthening and Health Prevention).

An enormous range of topics
Presentations, discussions on global health issues covered an enormous range of topics from ground breaking research on HIV, malaria, TB, cholera, covid, to care practices, physician care, and exemplary projects. The symposium was opened by Prof. Dr. Dr. Timo Ulrichs, Vice President, IRIA Director and Professor of International Emergency and Disaster Relief at the Akkon University for Human Sciences. He together with Gaby Feldmann, Dr. Fekri Dureab, both research associates at IRIA, and Akofa Bart-Plange from WAST) Center were responsible for facilitating the event. Greetings were given by Prof. Dr. Andreas M. Bock, Vice President of the Akkon University for Human Sciences, Prof. Dr. Helmut Hahn, President of the Koch Mechnikoff Forum (KMF), Roland Göhde, Chairman of the Board of the German Health Alliance (GHA), Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Presidential Advisor on Health - Office of the President, Ghana, and Prof. Philip B. Adongo, President of the Association of Schools of Public Health in Africa.

An inspiring highlight and encouraging advices
A remarkable and inspiring highlight was the keynote “Global Health and the Coronavirus2 Pandemic” by Prof. Abraham Anang, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), Ghana. He managed to motivate and engage with the young scientists by opening up. The other tutors were of great importance for the students as well as they gave helpful and encouraging advices. Despite the online limitations, the symposium was considered a complete success by the participants. In addition to the extraordinary range and quality of the contributions, the openness of the exchange and the clear commitment to continue the collaboration were impressive. As a follow-up event (Event II), another on-site event is planned in Berlin on the occasion of the World Health Summit in October 2021, to which all participants have already been invited (Event II).

26.10.2020: IRIA at the Civil Match Forum for International Partnerships

A path for international cooperation in post-pandemic times

From September 21 - 24, 2020, the Civil Match Forum took place as a four-day online event for in-depth discussion on international cooperation in pandemic times.

The Civil Match program is a cooperative project of the Goethe-Institute in the Ukraine, Insha Osvita, Wechange, EENCE - Eastern European Network for Citizenship Education, and Digitizing Space. It is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.

It aims to achieve a "new normality" in the field of international cooperation during and after the pandemic, and to develop collective cross-border cooperation despite global quarantine and closed borders.

With optimistic confidence in the energy of cooperation in various formats, Civil Match targets civil society actors from the so-called Eastern Partnership countries and Russia: including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, France, Georgia, Germany, Moldova, Poland, Russia and Ukraine. The representatives of civil society organizations from these countries want to expand their international partner network and experience valuable online encounters. Furthermore, they are also interested in sharing their ideas on international cooperation and establishing partnerships to support transformation projects in the countries.

In the first step of the program, around 1,000 civil society actors met in July 2020. From this large group, around 100 participants were selected for the Civil Match Forum in September, which then focused on developing concrete project ideas.

The Akkon University of Human Sciences, together with its Institute for Research in International Assistance (IRIA), was selected for this second round on the basis of our application. Gaby Feldmann, project coordinator of IRIA, presented the project activities in a presentation entitled "Promotion of Health Sciences in the Ukraine".

The meeting of a large number of potential partners in the Civil Match Forum resulted in concrete, effective project outlines through valuable contacts. Akkon/IRIA, armed with these new contacts, is now applying for the Foreign Office program "Expansion of Cooperation with the Eastern Partnership Countries and Russia".

The Akkon/IRIA project "Tuberculosis and Migration during the Ukrainian Crisis" is being shared with two partner universities: Ternopil National Medical University in Ukraine, and Smolensk State Medical Academy in Russia. This project was already successfully implemented in 2018/19 on behalf of the German Foreign Office.

 

17.11.2020: Collaboration School of Public Health, Kumasi, Ghana

Kick-start of collaboration with the School of Public Health of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), West African Institute of Science and Technology & IRIA on the occasion of the exam day.

Collaboration School of Public Health, Kumasi, Ghana & WAST & IRIA

Ass. Prof. Anthony Kwaku Edusei (PhD, MPH), Department of Health Promotion and Disability Studies, School of Public Health, K.N.U.S.T., Kumasi, Ghana, Akofa Bart-Plange, Consultant West Africa Institute of Science and Technology, Prof. Dr. med. Dr. PH Timo Ulrichs, Director Institute for Research in International Assistance (IRIA)/ Akkon University, Gaby Feldmann, Project Coordinator IRIA, and students.

THE WEST AFRICAN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (WAST) CENTER

Background:

Training a cadre of a young, willing and able workforce in the healthcare industry is key to the strengthening of healthcare systems in a country (Ayanore et al., 2019). Locally-led health research in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is critical for overcoming global health challenges. Yet, despite over 25 years of international efforts, health research capacity in LMICs remains insufficient and development attempts continue to be fragmented. According to Franzen et al. (2017) there has been steady progress in LMIC health research capacity, but major barriers to research still persist. Despite an evolution in the development mindset, international actors continue to use non-relevant development models that are not focused to the African setting to solve African challenges. (Franzen, Chandler and Lang, 2017). To change this development thinking, an institute where young African minds can be trained and equipped with the necessary tools and methods to solve the peculiar challenges of the continent in the healthcare sector needs to be established.

Concept:

The West African Science and Technology (WAST) Center seeks to bridge the yawning deficit in the quality of trained Biomedical/ Clinical engineers and Public Health Researchers in the healthcare sector. This will be an African initiative open to all individuals, agencies and partner companies seeking to help improve and support the development of training, research tools and methods for the provision of quality health towards the attainment of SDG 3.

The WAST Center will be a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization based in Accra, Ghana, a country that is making great strides in the provision of quality healthcare to its citizenry in the West African Sub Region. The institute will operate with a Public Private Philanthropic Partnership (PPPP) model in collaboration with Akkon University, Berlin, Germany and its Institute for Research in International Assistance (IRIA), founded in 2018 by co-founder Prof. Ulrichs.

The WAST Center shall be open to and collaborate with public and private sector agencies in the pharmaceutical, public health, medical devices, regulatory affairs, research and academic sectors of the healthcare industry in the region, with the sole aim of equipping young African minds with the tools, methods and support to find relevant and sustainable African solutions to the challenges plaguing the African continent, especially facing additional health challenges by the climate change.

This will also significantly improve their employability and chances for the job market in the healthcare sector to feed the companies that the institute shall be collaborating with.

Aims:

The aims of the West African Science and Technology (WAST) Center will be: 

1.1. TRAINING AND RESEARCH HEALTHCARE TECHNOLOGY

  • Assessing the challenges and the need for healthcare technology tools
  • Healthcare Technology Management
  • Healthcare Technology Assessment
  • Training of Biomedical Engineering Students in collaboration with Tertiary Universities on the above topics
  • Platform of exchange between students and local and/or international companies
  • Advertising of relevant scholarships opportunities to students
  • Acting as an innovation hub for companies and students to develop ideas to promote quality healthcare provision in the West African Sub Region through private sector involvement (Hackathons, sponsorship and implementation of BSc and MSc Thesis projects in tertiary universities, mentoring programs and so on)

1.2. TRAINING AND RESEARCH IN PUBLIC HEALTH WITH SPECIAL FOCUS ON AFRICA

  • Global health aspects
  • Practical tools in public health intervention with special focus on (West-)African issues
  • Introduction into epidemiology, surveillance and monitoring
  • Healthcare system analysis
  • Big data and digitalization in public health

1.3. CONSULTANCY AND FUTURE AREAS OF WORK

  • Hospital Planning and Design
  • Healthcare Technology Planning
  • Public Health Research Services
  • International Business Match-Making between local and foreign businesses
German-Ukrainian Partner Project

“Strengthening the health system in Ukraine by promoting health sciences and effective bilateral COLLABORATION”

This project on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Health aims at supporting health care in Ukraine by promoting health sciences. A reform of the health care system in Ukraine has been on the agenda since independence of the country and beginning efforts to overcome the post-Soviet Semashko system. The health care system has to face the health challenges of the 21st century. The average life expectancy of Ukrainians is 71.3 years, ten years less than in the countries of Central and Western Europe. Among the deaths due to tuberculosis, Ukraine is at the sad top in Europe. Resistant tuberculosis strains are spreading in Ukraine (WHO Tuberculosis surveillance and monitoring report in Europe 2019). The conflict in the east fuels the epidemic, aggravated by a simultaneous spread of HIV. The biggest challenge for the Ukrainian health care system is the country's hybrid epidemiological profile: most people are dying from noncommunicable diseases; however, the infectious diseases are still not treated adequately.

Our approach: Reasoning for sustainable personal and scientific relationships, carrying out basic analyzes of the health care system and the conflict situation in Ukraine, as well as establishing partnerships with Ukrainian universities to contribute to medical education and training. We started from established university partnerships such as Ternopil and at the same time incorporated the capital city of Kiev. The work in the subprojects is accompanied and complemented by scientific exchange, also in a series of events coordinated by IRIA.

The IRIA "German-Ukrainian Partner Project" is implemented in four subprojects:

  • Subproject 1: Health System Analysis & Conflict Analysis
  • Subproject 2: Joint Master Program Public Health
  • Subproject 3: Scientific Partner Projects in Health Sciences
  • Subproject 4: International Working Group with the Ukrainian Ministry of Health

 

Yemen: Health System Strengthening II (HSSP II)

“How to help a country that, according to the United Nations, is experiencing the world's most serious humanitarian crisis but not allows to enter because of the threatening security situation?"

The German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the Akkon University of Human Sciences with its Institute for Research in International Assistance (IRIA) are working together to improve health care in Yemen on a sustainable basis.

A civil war has been raging in Yemen since 2015.

The consequences of this war are dramatic: most of the country's infrastructure has been destroyed. The health system has been particularly affected. Less than half of the health care facilities are still in operation. More than three million people are internally displaced. The child rights organisation Save the Children reports that 85,000 children have starved to death in Yemen since 2015. The United Nations estimates that 14 million people do not have enough to eat. Around two million children are considered to be at acute risk of starvation. 

War injuries and epidemics (diphtheria, cholera, measles) increase the need. Three quarters of the Yemeni population are dependent on humanitarian aid. Every ten minutes a child dies here from malnutrition, disease or the direct effects of war. Many diseases could have been avoided with better essential, qualitatively necessary medical care. 

According to WHO estimates, more than 16 million inhabitants have neither access to health care nor to appropriate medication. There is a lack of access to clean water, sanitation and adequate hygiene. Only half of the hospitals are still functioning. Even these facilities can only function to a limited extent due to a lack of staff, equipment and medicines. 

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) doubled its support for Yemen in 2019 to 136 million Euro (2018: 62.5 million Euro). This is primarily intended to improve health care and water and sanitation services.

GIZ has been active in Yemen on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) since 1969 and has had its own office in the capital Sana'a since 1983.  Due to the security situation, there are currently no German personnel on site. More than 129 Yemeni GIZ employees are continuing many projects.

As early as 2005, GIZ developed a quality assurance procedure for the health authorities in Yemen for the first level of health care, which needs to be further developed to meet the more stringent conditions of current challenges. This project is financed by BMZ and implemented by GIZ together with Akkon/IRIA and the German-Yemeni Medical Association (DJAEV).

The aim of this three-year project is to ensure qualitatively adapted essential medical care at the first level of care and in reference hospitals in Yemen, despite of war and resulting bottlenecks. Beyond quality assurance procedures and continuous quality improvement, practice-tested instruments for quality assurance in the health care system are to be developed for the first level of care, reference hospitals and regional health authorities, as well as to develop key groups and groups of health care professionals. In addition to that the staff of certain institutions and professional groups shall be effectively trained in medical-technical procedures in order to enable them to independently develop, apply and maintain the health-protecting "standard operating procedures" in the health care facilities. 

Please note: For safety reasons, this can only be done from outside. This Yemen project is humanitarian aid and technical cooperation in remote mode!

 

Health prevention through capacity development and hygiene measures in Yemen (CDH)

Health Prevention through Capacity Development and Hygiene Measures in Yemen (CDH)

“How to contribute in the reduction of water-borne and infectious diseases in a country that is disrupted  by the ongoing conflict and a health system which is operating with less than half of its full capacity?” 

Akkon University of Human Sciences with its Institute for Research in International Assistance (IRIA)  in partnership with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH \ Strengthening the Resilience and Participation at Local Level in Yemen Programme (SRPL), which is funded by BMZ, cooperate together in implementing this project in three governorates in Yemen.

Background

Water supply is one of the most urgent problems facing the Yemeni population. The highlands in particular, where the majority of the Yemeni population live, are affected by extreme water shortages. This is caused by several factors which consequently contribute to further drop in the groundwater level. As early as 2009, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) therefore predicted that Yemen could be the first country in the world to completely lose its groundwater reserves.

Since the eruption of the war in March 2015, Yemen’s overall situation deteriorated due to the military conflict. In 2019, it is estimated that around 19.3 million people have limited access to drinking water and adequate sanitation (IRC, 2019). Moreover, public waste management has also largely collapsed, encouraging the spread of infectious diseases such as cholera, dengue, malaria and so on.

This is where this project’s objective comes in. Through measures in the following fields of activities:

  • Water hygiene
  • Waste management
  • Toilets

The project thus contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): SDG 3 (health and well-being) and SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation). It contributes to the prevention of infectious diseases and consequently helps to improve public health. In the medium to long term, a measurable decline in diarrheal and other infectious diseases are to be expected.

Objective

The overall project objective is the prevention of infectious diseases through hygiene measures in the areas of water hygiene, waste management and toilets.

Areas of implementation

The project is designed to be implemented in accordance with the already existing IRIA project “Health System Strengthening, Yemen” to create synergies as well as areas of integration. It will be conducted in three governorates in Yemen namely Hadramout, Ibb and Dhamar.

Effect

The project objective is primarily the prevention of infectious diseases through measures in the areas of water hygiene, waste disposal and toilets. These measures will improve the health of the respective households and village communities in the three governorates. At the same time, it strengthens the resilience and participation of individuals and communities by imparting knowledge, skills and a strengthened ability to help themselves in the three fields of action.

Scientific monitoring and evaluation of the JUH integration work

Further information will follow soon.

Tuberculosis and Migration during the Ukraine crisis (ÖPR project)

Further information will follow soon.

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