Evidence Aid, a decade on from the Indian Ocean tsunami

AmbrishEvidence Aid, a decade on from the Indian Ocean tsunami: Knowledge for those affected by natural disasters and humanitarian crises

Ambrish Singh, M.Tech, Center for Biotechnology, Anna University, Chennai, India

Evidence Aid, a non-profit initiative which provides resources for decision makers before, during and after disasters and other humanitarian emergencies, after a decade of its establishment following the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, organized a symposium in Hyderabad, India on Saturday, September 20, 2014. The symposium focused on ‘Knowledge for those affected by natural disasters and humanitarian crises’ More than fifteen presenters from 11 organizations and seven countries gave presentations on topics related to natural disasters and humanitarian crises in the world.

The symposium started with a brief welcome address by Prof. Mike Clarke, Director for Evidence Aid, enlightening the audience about the history and future of Evidence Aid. He described the journey so far by Evidence Aid and explained how with a need to make a well informed decisions, especially while responding to a disaster, Evidence Aid is committed towards providing resources for decision-makers before, during and after the disasters.

Claire Allen the Knowledge Manager at Evidence Aid, talked about the Evidence Aid resources, its new website and how Evidence Aid is planning to partner with other organizations and publishers to ensure the free availability of the evidence (in the form of systematic reviews) specific to the emergency setting. She talked about identification of new systematic reviews and the great help volunteers can make in this regard. Bonnix Kayabu, Evidence Aid Co-ordinator, discussed the gap analysis and importance of priority setting in developing questions that can be addressed by systematic reviews.  Tamilarasu Kadhiravan, Associate Prof. (Medicine), JIPMER Puducherry, India, discussed the relevance of systematic reviews in the context of disaster. Donal O’Mathuna, Convener, Cochrane Ireland, elaborated about the general principles for research ethics in the context of humanitarian crises and emergency situations. This was followed by a brainstorming session on the development of mobile application for Evidence Aid.      

Kevin Pottie from the Campbell and Cochrane Equity Methods Group described health equality methods and equity in evidence-based research. Dominic Mellon, a PhD student working with Evidence Aid described Evidence Aid as a complex multicomponent knowledge translation intervention.  He interestingly demonstrated how the evidence base is the main link and is at the center of inquiry, synthesis, translation, and went on to describe its final use. Sae Ochi, from Imperial College London MRC-PHE Center for Environments and Health presented an example of a systematic review titled ‘Medication supply for people evacuated during disasters’ which showed the evidence based approach and its application in devising the guidelines. Dr. Suchitra Lisam from Sphere India and Maneesh Singhal from the Indian Red Cross Society discussed how to encourage the incorporation of research into the policy and guidelines development.

Dr. Prasanta Mahapatra from the Institute of Health Systems, India, discussed about the need for the evidence based public health response in disasters. He described how research on health interventions in humanitarian crises and developing disaster healthcare research capacities to address regional vulnerabilities can play a role in developing evidence. Prof. Kumarjyoti Nath, from the Institution of Public Health Engineers, India, described how an evidence based approach helped to frame policies and guidelines and improve public health. Prathap Tharyan, Director of the South Asian Cochrane Network and Centre talked about the lessons learned since the Asian tsunami and its application in other similar scenarios.

A round table discussion took place at the end of the symposium and focused on the expectation and needs from those preparing for and responding to disasters and humanitarian crises. It shed light on what is expected from an organization like Evidence Aid. All the panelists unanimously agreed that more and more evidence is required while responding to any crisis or developing the guidelines to respond to such situations in future.

The symposium successfully demonstrated the importance of systematic reviews and their utility in the context of disasters and the entire event was focused on delivering that message and creating an atmosphere where experts from different arenas can share their experiences so as to achieve the common goal of providing evidence before, during and after natural disasters.

The symposium had a lasting impression and motivated people like me to get more closely associated with Evidence Aid and serve for the cause.

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