• London School of Hygeine & Tropical Medicine logo

Health in Humanitarian Crises

Discover the health needs of those affected by humanitarian crises, challenges of delivering healthcare, and what we must do next.

Health in Humanitarian Crises
  • Duration3 weeks
  • Weekly study4 hours
  • LearnFree
  • Extra BenefitsFrom $64Find out more

Why join the course?

Humanitarian crises due to armed conflict, natural disasters, disease outbreaks and other hazards are a major and growing contributor to ill-health and vulnerability worldwide, and their continuing effects on health and health systems can undermine decades of social development.

Humanitarian crises present a number of distinct challenges for public health interventions and research. These include violence and insecurity, mass population displacement, severely deteriorated daily living conditions and impoverishment. They can also cause sudden and widespread disruption to health services and the broader health system, and limit domestic access to human, financial and technical resources alongside an increasing need to coordinate aid from outside the country.

This free online course is designed to answer key questions including:

  • What are the key health needs in humanitarian crises?
  • How can we develop responses to health needs in humanitarian settings with maximum impact?
  • How will we respond to health needs in the future?

Understand the health challenges before, during and after a humanitarian crisis

Our course will begin by thinking about the key characteristics of humanitarian crises, describing some of the key political, economic and social factors that contribute to humanitarian crises and their effects on health and healthcare systems.

We will then move on to look at the practical responses to health needs in humanitarian crises, including how and why we prioritise health interventions, the ways in which these might be conducted on the ground, and the evidence gathered and used to make decisions.

Finally we will look ahead, identifying the new and continuing challenges facing the world, the potential health innovations and technologies that may help address these issues, and hearing experts’ perspectives on the future landscape of humanitarianism and health.

Learn with humanitarian crisis experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and beyond

The course has been developed by the Health in Humanitarian Crises Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The Centre brings together multi-disciplinary researchers and practitioners from across the School, other academic institutions, NGOs, governments and United Nations agencies to focus on improving the health of populations affected by humanitarian crises.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsJEN PALMER: Unprecedented numbers of people have been displaced by humanitarian crises, such as the ongoing armed conflict in Syria, devastating natural disasters like Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, and disease outbreaks such as Ebola. Humanitarian crises are a major and growing contributor to ill health and vulnerability worldwide. Their effects on health and health systems can undermine decades of social development and present a number of distinct challenges for public health interventions.

Skip to 0 minutes and 35 secondsKARL BLANCHET: My name is Karl Blanchet, and I'm the Lead Educator for the MOOC Health in Humanitarian Crises I'm also the Director of the Health in Humanitarian Crises Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Skip to 0 minutes and 48 secondsJEN PALMER: And I'm Jen Palmer, co-Lead Educator and Deputy Director of the Centre. The Centre is a group of more than 100 researchers here at LSHTM, many of whom have firsthand experience of delivering humanitarian programmes across the globe. We continue to work in partnership with national and international organisations, including United Nations agencies, civil society organisations, universities, and governments. Collectively, we carry out research and teaching with the aim of improving humanitarian practise and policies, ultimately to improve the health of people in humanitarian crises.

Skip to 1 minute and 21 secondsKARL BLANCHET: In this course, we will hear from a range of experts across disciplines, including epidemiology, anthropology, economics, health policy, and health systems. Using videos, articles, and discussions, we will ask, what are the key health needs in humanitarian crisis? How can we develop effective health responses in humanitarian settings? And how will we respond to humanitarian health needs in the future? The course is suitable for you if you are a healthcare practitioner or NGO coordinator, especially if you work in a low and middle-income country affected by humanitarian crisis. Also, if you are a student in health and development or have an interest in the challenges of delivering health care in a crisis setting.

Skip to 2 minutes and 13 secondsJEN PALMER: In the humanitarian world, we have recently seen strong commitment to coordinating crisis response through initiatives like the Sustainable Development Goals and the world's first Humanitarian Summit. This work, and by extension our course, emphasises that we leave no one behind, and in particular, this means that people affected and disadvantaged by humanitarian crises.

What topics will you cover?

  • The main health needs of populations in humanitarian crises
  • Cross-cutting health issues, such as disability, the elderly, and women and girls
  • The challenges of healthcare delivery in crisis situations
  • Humanitarian principles, coordination mechanisms, and codes of conduct
  • Data collection, response planning, and prioritisation of health interventions
  • Sector-specific health interventions, including mental health, NCDs, sexual health, and nutrition
  • Ethical considerations around conducting research, evidence-informed decision making, and evaluating health programmes
  • Historic, current, and emerging trends in humanitarian health
  • Ideas surrounding the future of humanitarianism
  • Current innovations in humanitarian action.

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Explore the different types of humanitarian crises and their resulting impacts on population health and health systems
  • Reflect on humanitarian principles, ethics, and codes of conduct and how these come into play when delivering humanitarian health interventions
  • Assess emerging trends in humanitarian crises and consider how the humanitarian sector may need to adapt as a result.

Who is the course for?

The course will be particularly relevant to healthcare practitioners and NGO staff, especially those in low- and middle-income countries affected by armed conflict, natural disasters and disease outbreaks. It will also be valuable to individuals studying health or development and to anyone with an interest in the challenges of delivering healthcare in a crisis setting.

What do people say about this course?

Thank you for an exciting course. The course brought in a lot of wealth in humanitarian crisis management. I enjoyed the quizzes as these helped to think through how to manage situations in practical terms.


What a wonderful course, it far exceeded my expectations. I have learnt so much both from the formal course materials and the discussion. The variety of comments from such a diverse range of participants really opened my eyes to the breadth of perspectives and opinions.


Who will you learn with?

Karl Blanchet

Karl Blanchet

Director of the Health in Humanitarian Crises and Associate Professor in Health Systems Research at LSHTM

Jen Palmer

Jen Palmer

I'm a social scientist and deputy director of the Health in Humanitarian Crises Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. I also work at the Centre of African Studies at U Edinburgh

Bayard Roberts

Bayard Roberts

I am Associate Professor in Health Systems and Policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, with a research focus on mental health and NCDs among conflict-affected populations

Who developed the course?

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is a world leader in research and postgraduate education in public and global health. Its mission is to improve health and health equity worldwide.

Learner reviews

Join this course

Start this course for free, upgrade for extra benefits, or buy Unlimited to access this course and hundreds of other short courses for a year.


Join free and you will get:

  • Access to this course for 5 weeks


Upgrade this course and you will get:

  • Access to this course for as long as it’s on FutureLearn
  • A print and digital Certificate of Achievement once you’re eligible

Unlimited (New!)
$249.99 for one year

Buy Unlimited and you will get:

  • Access to this course, and hundreds of other FutureLearn short courses and tests for a year
  • A printable digital Certificate of Achievement on all short courses once you’re eligible
  • The freedom to keep access to any course you've achieved a digital Certificate of Achievement on, for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn
  • The flexibility to complete your choice of short courses in your own time within the year
Find out more about upgrades or Unlimited.