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Humanitarian Evidence Programme

An Oxfam member of staff helps to carry one family's newly received non-food items home in UN House, Juba, South Sudan. Credit: Anita Kattakhuzy/Oxfam

At a glance

Reviewing, synthesizing and communicating evidence on humanitarian interventions and approaches for policymakers and practitioners.


The Humanitarian Evidence and Communications Programme (HEP) works with  academic institutions and NGOs to map out the existing humanitarian evidence base, critically appraise it and synthesize the results.

We have published a series of systematic reviews and corresponding evidence briefs  that  review, appraise and synthesize the evidence on the impact or effectiveness of a range of humanitarian interventions and approaches. In addition to programming insights, our individual studies highlight some real gaps in the evidence base. We are in the process of synthesizing and communicating these overall findings with the aim of enhancing the availability, accessibility, quality, usability and impact of evidence and information.

HEP is a partnership between Oxfam and the Feinstein International Center at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University. It is funded through the Humanitarian Innovation and Evidence Programme at DFID.


To date, we've adapted and used systematic review methodology to search, critically appraise and synthesize evidence in eight thematic areas. An approach and methodology were developed for each. Below you can find a list of the review questions along with links to protocol reports (methodology) and the full reviews and evidence briefs.

What are the main programme findings to date? 

The following points provide a preview of selected findings from our forthcoming journal article. 

  • Systematic reviews provide a robust appraisal of both the existing humanitarian evidence base and its gaps in response to specific questions. 
  • Relevant knowledge and voices can be excluded from the synthesis - researchers still need to make a judgement as to what counts as evidence and 'rigour'; and some experiences may not be regularly captured and documented. 
  • Lack of common standards, indicators and definitions in humanitarian practice make interventions and outcomes difficult to compare and measure. 
  • Much of our evidence comes from programme evaluations - a more thorough reporting of methods - sample size, sample strategy, programme dates, locations and costs- could help improve the quality of our underlying evidence base. 

Thematic questions

What practices are used to identify and prioritize vulnerable populations affected by urban humanitarian emergencies? 
Conducted by a team from Stanford University, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Norwegian Refugee Council and University of New South Wales. 

What are the impacts of WASH interventions in disease outbreak response in humanitarian contexts in low and middle income countries? 
Conducted by a team from the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Tufts University.

What is the impact of protection in interventions on unaccompanied and separated children, during the period of separation, in humanitarian crises in low and middle income countries? 
Conducted by a team from Save the Children UK, Save the Children Sweden and McMaster University.

What is the evidence on the effectiveness and efficiency of interventions supporting shelter self-recovery following humanitarian crises? 
Conducted by a team team from Habitat for Humanity and University College London.

What is the impact of mental health and psychosocial support interventions on people affected by humanitarian emergencies? 
Conducted by a team at the EPPI Centre, Institute of Education, University College London.

What is the influence of market support interventions on household food security in humanitarian crises? 
Conducted by a team of independent consultants.

What are the impacts of food assistance on pastoralist livelihoods in humanitarian crises? 
Conducted by a team from the University of Toronto.

What is the relationship between recovery and relapse; and between relapse and default in the management of acute malnutrition in children in humanitarian emergencies? 
Conducted by a team from the University of Sheffield.


The Humanitarian Evidence Programme team and authors present at many events. A selection of forthcoming and past events is listed below.

Forthcoming events


Past Events

Putting Evidence To Work For Better Policies, Programmes And Practice, What Works Global Summit 2016, Campbell Collaboration, 3ie, Sense About Science and Centre for Innovation and Social Science, September 2016, Bloomsbury, London.
WWGS hosted policymakers, programme managers and researchers from over 25 countries. Sessions spanned a wide range of sectors including child and social welfare, education, health, humanitarian aid, crime and justice, environment and climate change and gender. There were also sessions on research and review methods.

Bridging the Evidence Gap, Planning with Evidence, ALNAP, July 2016.
Evidence is essential for effective, ethical, and accountable humanitarian action. But how should it be used in planning humanitarian programming? ALNAP invited Eleanor Ott and Roxanne Krystalli, from the Humanitarian Evidence Programme, Sheree Bennett (International Rescue Committee (IRC) Jyotsna Puri, Deputy Executive Director and Head of Evaluation, 3ie and Christof Kurz, Deputy Director of Research, Evaluation, and Learning Unit, International Rescue Committee (IRC) to discuss their work in the first webinar of the Bridging the Evidence Gap series.

See Roxanne Krystalli's presentation:

The Evidence Lounge at the World Humanitarian Summit, May 2016.
A multi-stakeholder initiative for the World Humanitarian Summit, aiming to inspire and enable the humanitarian sector to apply an evidence-based approach.

Making Evidence Count: Better Use of Evidence to Increase Humanitarian Impact, ELRHA, World Humanitarian Summit, May 2016.
This side event focused on the critical importance of humanitarian evidence. The discussion showcased practical, positive examples of how evidence can improve the effectiveness and impact of the humanitarian system by changing methods and behaviour. The event also examined new initiatives to address barriers to the uptake of evidence, and identified practical ways the humanitarian system can engage in better evidence practices. The event supported a renewed commitment to evidence-informed humanitarian action, which puts crisis-affected populations at the core of response.

Evidence Synthesis in the Humanitarian Field: Challenges and opportunities, DFID, London, 14 April 2016.
The discussion focused on insights from the process of synthesising evidence in three areas of the humanitarian field: shelter, child protection, and mental health. The event also invited a broader discussion of humanitarian evidence to improve policy and practice. How can we tailor existing systematic review approaches to the realities of the type and quality of data in the humanitarian field? How can we critically appraise this evidence? What are some challenges in defining terminology in the humanitarian field, and how have teams overcome them? What are the limitations and potential for humanitarian evidence synthesis in terms of uptake and impact? Panellists included Katharine Williamson (Save the Children UK - co-author of The impact of protection interventions on unaccompanied and separated children: A systematic review); Mukdarut Bangpan (EPPI Centre, University College London Institute of Education - co-author of The impact of mental health and psychosocial support interventions on people affected by humanitarian emergencies: A systematic review) and Elizabeth Parker and Victoria Maynard (University College London - co-authors of The effectiveness and efficiency of interventions supporting shelter self-recovery following humanitarian crises: An evidence synthesis).

Funded by UK AID this is a partnershiip between Oxfam GB and the Feinstein International Center