READY posts updates here—news, announcements, and other updates on the initiative.

A health worker vaccinates a baby - MHC, Burao, Somalia. Image credit: Mustafa Saeed / Save the Children

Will the COVID-19 vaccine ever reach forcibly displaced populations?

Speakers: Prof. Heidi Larson, LSHTM; Colette Selman, Gavi; Dr. Morseda Chowdhury, BRAC; Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, Former Chief Humanitarian Coordinator, Nigeria; Dr. Joanne Liu, University of Montreal and former International President of MSF

Efforts are underway to accelerate the development and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, with the emphasis so far being on highlighting equity in distribution among countries. While COVID-19 has disproportionately greater impact on certain populations, including forcibly displaced populations, it is often politically untenable to say that this group should be given priority when it comes to planning vaccination campaigns.

Seroprevalence studies show suboptimal immunity to various vaccine-preventable diseases among refugees, and lower vaccination coverage of these groups compared with local host populations has also been observed. In addition, there are specific barriers—informal (language, access to information and culture) and economic and administrative that prevent them from spontaneously accessing immunization campaigns. What does this mean for the COVID-19 vaccine reaching forcibly displaced populations? How can access be guaranteed? What are the ethical issues? How will logistics be dealt with in humanitarian settings? Join Professor Heidi Larson and select panelists as they discuss this critical and disputed issue.

MODERATOR: Professor Heidi Larson, Professor of Anthropology, Risk and Decision Science, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine | Heidi Larson is an anthropologist and Director of The Vaccine Confidence Project (VCP); Professor of Anthropology, Risk and Decision Science, LSHTM; Clinical Professor, Department of Global Health, University of Washington, Seattle, USA, and Guest Professor at the University of Antwerp, Belgium. Dr. Larson previously headed Global Immunization Communication at UNICEF, chaired GAVI’s Advocacy Task Force, and served on the WHO SAGE Working Group on vaccine hesitancy. Her particular research interest is on risk and rumor management from clinical trials to delivery – and building public trust. She is author of Stuck: How vaccine rumours start and why they don’t go away (OUP 2020).


  • Colette Selman, Regional Head, Country Support, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance: Colette has over 15 years of experience in public health and development including at Gavi, GFATM, European Commission, NGOs and the private sector, with a focus on fragile and conflict settings.
  • Dr. Morseda Chowdhury, Associate Director, Health, Nutrition, and Population Programme, BRAC: Morseda Chowdhury has worked at BRAC for over 15 years, and leads its public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including with forcibly displaced Rohingya populations.
  • Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, Former Chief Humanitarian Coordinator, Nigeria: Dr. Olatunbosun-Alakija is a globally renowned authority on bridging the nexus between humanitarian action and sustainable human development. As Nigeria’s Chief Humanitarian Coordinator, at the helm of the Emergency Coordination Centre, she has served as a high-level interlocutor between state and non-state actors at governmental and intergovernmental levels.
  • Dr. Joanne Liu, Associate Clinical Professor, University of Montreal; former International President of Médecins sans Frontières: Joanne Liu is a leading voice on medical humanitarian crises, and served as International President of Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) from 2013 to 2019. She remains a practicing doctor, both in the field with MSF and through hospital shifts in Montreal.
Zenebech,* mother of three, with her youngest child at an emergency food assistance gathering in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in August, 2020. (Misak Workneh / Save the Children)

Maternal, Newborn, and Reproductive Health in Emergencies (MNRHiE) and COVID-19

November 2020 | Adaptations, Successes, Challenges, and Next Steps: An Expert Consultation

Cover image from Maternal, Newborn, and Reproductive Health in Emergencies (MNRHiE) and COVID-19

This report presents key findings and recommendations from a series of four discussion-based expert consultation workshops. These consultations—organized by the READY initiative and the Inter Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in crises (IAWG)—brought Maternal, Newborn, and Reproductive Health and infectious disease stakeholders together to review MNRH in the preparedness/outbreak response context and identify priorities for the ongoing pandemic. This report compiles and shares participants’ experiences and lessons learned, and identifies challenges and gaps in implementing humanitarian MNRH services in COVID-19 across the world. The recommendations developed from these consultations are intended to support MNRH services and actors to improve access and quality of care to vulnerable populations in future waves of COVID-19 and in future outbreaks.

Download | MNRH and COVID-19 Consultation Report (37 pages | 1MB .pdf)

Zenebech,* mother of three, with her youngest child at an emergency food assistance gathering in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in August, 2020. (Misak Workneh / Save the Children)

Maternal, Newborn, and Reproductive Health in Emergencies (MNRHiE) and COVID-19: Successes, Challenges, and Next Steps

Wednesday, December 2, 2020 | 0800-0900 Washington/1300-1400 London | Panelists: Alice Janvrin, Independent Consultant; Ashley Wolfington, Global Health Consultant; Shehu Nanfwang Dasigit, IRC Sierra Leone; Donatella Massai, Lead Technical Advisor, READY

Subscribe to READY updates to receive future webinar announcements | View/download the expert consultation report discussed in this webinar

The health, economic, and social impacts of COVID-19 are felt worldwide and most critically by those at risk of exposure, severe forms of illness, mortality, and those facing the brunt of the economic downturn. The global community continues to fear the deprioritization of MNRHiE programs during COVID-19 preparedness and response, and there is a risk that existing inequalities in MNRHiE services will be exacerbated if we don’t act now.

In October 2020, the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA)-funded READY initiative and the Inter Agency Working Group on reproductive health in crises (IAWG) led an expert consultation bringing together key MNRH and infectious disease stakeholders to share and compile experiences and lessons learned from the first phase of the response. This webinar will present the findings of these consultations, including:

  • Successful adaptations and challenges of MNRHiE programs during COVID-19;
  • Successes, challenges, and gaps in currently available COVID-19 tools and guidelines;
  • The interaction between global and implementation levels, as related to MNRHiE programming;
  • Recommendations to support MNRHiE services and actors to improve access and quality of care to vulnerable populations in future waves of COVID-19 and in future outbreaks.


Alice Janvrin, Independent Consultant
Alice has ten years of international experience, with seven years setting up and running health and reproductive health programs in complex humanitarian contexts, including the Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. As the Reproductive Health Coordinator for the International Rescue Committee, she piloted an integrated SRH and GBV program model in Nigeria and led numerous research and evaluation projects, including an assessment of the impact of Ebola on Sexual and Reproductive Health in DRC. Alice received her BSc in Psychology from Royal Holloway (University of London) and her Msc in International Health from the University of Copenhagen.

Ashley Wolfington, Global Health Consultant
Ashley has 15 years of public health and communication experience with expertise in sexual and reproductive health and HIV, and humanitarian and development programs and policy. She led the International Rescue Committee’s Sexual and Reproductive Health team for five years, leading a team of public health experts to deliver technical assistance to programs in 26 crisis-affected countries, including emergency preparedness and response. She is now working with IPPF, overseeing the development and delivery of their global humanitarian programme. She has an undergraduate degree in Political Science and French from Duke University and a MSc in Public Health from Colombia University.

Shehu Nanfwang Dasigit, Regional Public Health Specialist, IRC Sierra Leone
For over 11 years, Shehu N. Dasigit has been actively engaged in clinical and public health responses among vulnerable populations locally and internationally as a public health professional in reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH). He has participated in the implementation of PEPFAR project with Faith Alive Foundation and PMTCT Center Jos, Nigeria as ART/Peri-Op Nurse, overseeing the setup and management of the Operating Theater. He has also operated as clinical nurse at the American University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola, and supported in trainings and health awareness of the AUN community. Shehu is currently the regional public health specialist for IRC Sierra Leone, providing technical support to Health System Strengthening (HSS) RMNCAH projects. As a registered nurse and midwife, Shehu received a BSc in Nursing Science at the University of Jos, Nigeria, and an MSc in Public Health at Cavendish University Uganda.

Donatella Massai, Lead Technical Advisor, READY
For the past twenty years, Donatella has been engaged in international disaster response programs worldwide with a special focus on Emergency Health. She has participated in activities such as the reactivation of the Global Task Force on Cholera control, ZIKA preparedness and regional response in South and Central American for UNICEF, as Country Director and Medical Coordinator with Medécins Sans Frontierès, and General Director of International Organizations such as Greenpeace, Amnesty International and the Robert. F. Kennedy Foundation in Italy. With UNICEF, Donatella was the Emergency Health lead for the Cholera outbreak in Haiti and emergency health officer for the West and Central Africa region. She has conducted multiple research and evaluation projects in epidemics, including the after-action review for Save the Children’s Ebola Treatment Unit in Sierra Leone. Donatella received her MSc at the Faculty of Medicine, a major in health systems management from University La Sapienza in Rome, and her M.A in International Politics with a specialization in Human Rights at Paris XI-Faculté Jean Monnet, Droit-Economie.

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