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Field Epidemiology and Training Department

Field Epidemiology 

The field epidemiology activities of the department consist of 
  • Assessments of the epidemiological or health situation and medical needs in areas where MSF operates or is planning to intervene. These consultations are typically ad-hoc consisting of surveys on health related issues,  nutritional or mortality. This work is also often associated with epidemic outbreaks (e.g. cholera, measles) or in response to a humanitarian emergency during or following conflict or a natural disaster.
  • Epidemiological support to programmes given at the request of MSF to assess health intervention, such as monitoring the introduction of new diagnostics, new operational strategies,  or new treatment schedules.


Epicentre develops and delivers training programs on field epidemiology. These courses are primarily intended for MSF staff, but are also open to staff from other relevant organizations. You can read more about the training offered by Epicentre here.

Examples of recent and ongoing activities

Migrants in Greece

Since 2015, Europe has been facing an unprecedented arrival of refugees and migrants with more than one million people entering via land and sea routes. There is a lack of quantitative evidence on the harsh conditions, forced detention, violence, and torture endured and the mental health problems they face. Epicentre conducted a survey at 7 refugee and migrant sites in Greece documenting the types and levels of violence experienced during their journey. The survey had one quantitative and two qualitative components: a questionnaire focused on migrants’ journey, vulnerabilities, access to information and violence endured during the journey and in refugee camps in Greece; qualitative in-depth interviews examined violence and mental health difficulty experienced by the refugee and migrant population in their home countries, during the journey and in Greece; lastly focus group discussions examined access to information and services in relation to asylum procedures. These latter demonstrated a great lack of guidance and information in relation to asylum procedures increases the participants’ anxiety about the future. This survey followed an earlier similar survey conducted in the so-called jungle migrant camp in Calais in 2016.

South Sudanese Refugees in Bidibidi, Uganda

South Sudan gained independence in 2011 after many year of armed conflict. However, the South Sudanese people are still affected by conflict and poor security.  Since 2106 hundreds of thousands of people have fled to Yumbe district in Nothern Uganda. In the space of a few months Bidibidi became the world’s largest refugee camp with an estimated 800 000 people.  MSF provides medical care to vulnerable populations. At the request of MSF Epicentre put in place a mortality and morbidity surveillance system so MSF can target its humanitarian activities. Populations like this are especially prone to emergency epidemic outbreaks from diseases such as measles, cholera, hepatitis E, and malaria, as well as an increase in the levels of malnutrition. An efficient surveillance system makes it possible to rapidly detect these occurrences and a prompt and appropriate response can help minimize the health impact on the populations. 

Monitoring measles in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Following measles outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2015, Epicentre has supported MSF activities by providing monitoring reports of measles cases across affected health districts. These monitoring reports are based on routinely collected data by the Ministry of Health and staff from MSF missions. These data are matched against population size estimates derived from the routine childhood vaccination programme, regional health authorities, and UNICEF. The monitoring reports include GIS generated maps that help visualize the location and spread of measles outbreaks. In 2016 and 2017 Epicentre is broadening the scope of this work to include a risk assessment tool for measles outbreak in the different districts which will help MSF anticipate future needs.