Mention of ethical review and informed consent in the reports of research undertaken during the armed conflict in Darfur (2004-2012): a systematic review

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Ghaiath Hussein
  • Khalifa Elmusharaf

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Doctoral Researcher, Medicine, Ethics, Science and Humanities (MESH), University of Birmingham, School of Public health, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK.
  • Senior Lecturer in Public Health, Graduate Entry Medical School, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland.


BACKGROUND: Armed conflict in Darfur, west Sudan since 2003 has led to the influx of about 100 international humanitarian UN and non-governmental organizations to help the affected population. Many of their humanitarian interventions included the collection of human personal data and/or biosamples, and these activities are often associated with ethical issues. A systematic review was conducted to assess the proportion of publicly available online reports of the research activities undertaken on humans in Darfur between 2004 and 2012 that mention obtaining ethical approval and/or informed consent.

METHODS: This systematic review is based on a systematic literature search of Complex Emergency Database, ReliefWeb, PubMed), followed by a hand search for the hardcopies of the eligible reports archived in the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) in Brussels.

RESULTS: The online search showed that out of the 68 eligible studies, 13.2% (9) reported gaining ethical approval and 42.6% (29) that an informed consent was obtained from the participants. The CRED search included 138 eligible reports. None of these reports mentioned gaining ethical approval and 17 (12.3%) mentioned obtaining informed consent from their participants.

CONCLUSIONS: The proportion of studies reporting ethical review and informed consent was smaller than might be expected, so we suggest five possible explanations for these findings. This review provides empirical evidence that can help in planning ethical conduct of research in humanitarian settings.


Original languageEnglish
Article number40
JournalBMC Medical Ethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2019


  • Developing countries, Humanitarian ethics, Non-governmental organizations, Public health ethics, Research ethics