A systematic literature review of the quality of evidence for injury and rehabilitation interventions in humanitarian crises

Int J Public Health. 2015 Nov;60(7):865-72. doi: 10.1007/s00038-015-0723-6. Epub 2015 Aug 23.


Introduction: Humanitarian crises continue to pose a significant threat to health; the United Nations estimates that 144 million people are directly affected by conflict or environmental disasters. During most humanitarian crises, surgical and rehabilitative interventions remain a priority.

Objectives: This review assessed the quality of evidence that informs injury and physical rehabilitation interventions in humanitarian crises.

Methods: Peer-reviewed and grey literature sources were assessed in a systematic manner. Selected papers were evaluated using quality criteria based on a modified version of the STROBE protocol.

Results: 46 papers met the inclusion criteria. 63 % of the papers referred to situations of armed conflict, of which the Yugoslav Wars were the most studied crisis context. 59 % of the studies were published since the year 2000. However, only two studies were considered of a high quality.

Conclusions: While there is now a greater emphasis on research in this sector, the volume of evidence remains inadequate given the growing number of humanitarian programmes worldwide. Further research is needed to ensure a greater breadth and depth of understanding of the most appropriate interventions in different settings.

Keywords: Conflict; Disasters; Global surgery; Humanitarianism; Injury; Rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Altruism*
  • Disasters*
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Patient Care Team
  • Rehabilitation
  • Relief Work*
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / rehabilitation
  • Voluntary Health Agencies
  • Warfare
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy