Newsletter May 2015


 ICRH Global Newsletter

28th of May, 2015


ICRH Belgium Internship program

of the program is one year. Applications can be submitted until 15 June 2015. More information and guidelines for application can be found at ICRH’s website:

Global Early Adolescent Study in Ecuador

Training of researchers in Ecuador and meeting with UNFPA
Within the scope of a bilateral research cooperation, financed by FWO (Research Fund – Flanders) and SENESCyT (Secretaría Nacional de Educación Superior, Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación), ICRH and the University of Cuenca (UCuenca) in Ecuador joined the international consortium of the Global Early Adolescent Study (GEAS).
Both institutions work closely together to implement GEAS in the city of Cuenca, Ecuador, which objective is to understand the impact of gender socialization in early adolescence on sexual health and wellbeing during late adolescence. In April 2015, ICRH and UCuenca staff, organized a 3-days training to prepare investigators to conduct narrative interviews with young adolescents and their parents in poor neighbourhoods of Cuenca. After the training, a meeting was organized between staff of UCuenca and ICRH and Marcia Elena Álvarez and Mario Vergara who represent UNFPA in Ecuador. The financial support of UNFPA to the GEAS study was discussed and additional technical aid was planned to implement the study in Cuenca.
More information: Sara De Meyer,,

Sexuality education in Uganda

Mitigating adverse sexual and reproductive health outcomes through a comprehensive primary school sexuality education program in South-Western Uganda.
Uganda’s adolescents experience unfavourable SRH outcomes. Young people (10-24 years) constitute over 33.5% of Uganda’s population, with about 47% below the age of 15. Nevertheless, this age group carries the highest disease burden, particularly in the SRH area. To address this problem, ICRH, in collaboration with Mbarara University and Martyrs University in Uganda, and the Free University of Brussels, developed a research project to mitigate adverse SRH problems. In this project, the researchers will develop a comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) programme, based on existing initiatives, targeting young adolescents in primary schools in South-Western Uganda. The programme will be delivered using a university student outreach programme. It is innovative for two reasons. Firstly, it focusses on young adolescents: even though the stage of early adolescence is one of the most crucial phases of human development, it is often overlooked in SRH research. Secondly, the project pays specific attention to the process of development and implementation of a comprehensive SRH program. While effectiveness studies have been done on this topic, good process and implementation research is rare. Nevertheless, it is crucial for the advancement of the study field. The project will start in Spring 2015 and is funded by VLIR-UOS.
More information: Kristien Michielsen,


MOMI at the European Commission

EUROPEAID External Cooperation Infopoint Session on the project ‘Missed Opportunities in Maternal and Infant Health’ (MOMI)
MOMI project research staff, Els Duysburgh, Emilomo Ogbe (ICRH-Belgium) and Sofia Moura (Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade do Porto, Portugal), had a EUROPEAID Infopoint session on the MOMI project at the European Commission in Brussels on Monday, the 13th of April, 2015. MOMI is implemented in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Malawi and Mozambique. The project aims to reduce maternal and infant mortality and morbidity in the year after childbirth through combined facility and community-based interventions. The theme of the Infopoint session was ‘Research serving Development; Rethinking Development and EU Aid: A focus on Reproductive Health’ The audience included civil society organisations, researchers and other stakeholders in the field of health policy and reproductive health. Emilomo presented the process used to design and select the MOMI interventions. Sofia presented the results of the MOMI baseline assessment and gave an overview of factors, hindering and enabling sustainability of the MOMI interventions. An interactive ‘question and answer’ session followed, during which a more detailed discussion of the project ensued.

Seminar on child and early marriage

The practice of forced child marriages is also in Belgium a reality.
On the 25th of March, a seminar on child and early marriage was organized by the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men, Plan Belgium and the International Centre for Reproductive Health (ICRH). ‘Many assume that this is an archaic practice, but this is not the case’ said Liesbet Stevens, deputy director of the Institute, ‘we should have. At the seminar, Els Leye presented the results of a qualitative study on the topic among professionals (MATRIFOR project), that describes the characteristics of forced marriage in Belgium.

The study showed that forced marriage is an issue among ethnic minorities that are resident in Belgium since a long time, as well as newcomers. In some communities, such as Roma or Afghan communities, child marriage is practiced. Women have less opportunities than men to escape or refuse a forced marriage. The persistence of the practice is due to strong psychological pressure from the family and community, in Belgium or from abroad, causing loyalty conflicts in the (potential) victims.  The study also demonstrated that professionals do not feel comfortable to deal with child and forced marriages, due to a lack of intercultural competencies, lack of information and of practical instruments to detect and recognise a forced marriage, lack of intervention protocols and insufficient knowledge of the current legal framework and the rights of the victims. Moreover, legislation does exist, but it is insufficiently known and its application remains difficult.

A national action plan, drawn up by the Institute, will be submitted to the competent governments. It includes recommendations for the development of concrete instruments to quickly and effectively detect forced marriages.

More news on the Belgian news sites (in Dutch):

MOMI Field visit in Kaya District, Burkina Faso

MOMI Research project staff, Els Duysburgh (ICRH-Belgium) and Halima Tougri (IRSS) conducted a field visit to five primary health care facilities in Kaya District in Burkina Faso from the 28th to 30th of April, 2015.
The purpose of the visit was to assess the implementation process of the selected interventions, as well as the data collection process for monitoring and evaluation of the project. MOMI will begin evaluation of its interventions in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Malawi and Mozambique in July 2015. Preparation for the evaluation and selection of health facilities for the case studies, and other technical issues and challenges were also discussed with the Burkina Faso project staff.

Sexual Behaviour Survey results showcase

On 27 March, the results from a survey on sexual behaviour dynamics in three urban areas of Cape Town with a high prevalence of HIV were made public  at a free, public event in Khayelitsha.
Members of the community could come, eat a snack, enjoy music played by a local DJ, peruse pamphlets, and listen to speakers, including the principle investigator, Prof. Wim Delva and Shiela Mc Cloen, Deputy Director of comprehensive health programs in Khayelitsha.
The survey, conducted by ICRH, involved 878 participants, as well as in-depth semi-structured interviews with 23 participants from the same communities in 2011 and 2012. The results were analysed in collaboration with researchers from the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA) and Hasselt University in Belgium.
Prof. Wim Delva, principal investigator, says the objective of the study was to describe relationship characteristics, which have previously been identified as risk factors for the transmission and acquisition of HIV.
‘Although many studies into sexual risk behaviours have been conducted in South Africa, our survey is unique in that we used touch screen computers and a visual time line to reconstruct the last year of participants’ sexual relationship history. In this way we were able to study sensitive behaviours such as engaging in multiple concurrent relationships without having to ask questions about concurrency directly,” prof Delva remarks.
Ms Roxanne Beauclair, study coordinator and PhD candidate, thinks it is the duty of researchers to let the public know what is found and to help aid in the correct interpretation of the results.
“Even though the event was an open-house, it was a pleasure to see that so many of the attendees from the community stayed to listen to all the speakers. To me it demonstrates that residents in Khayelitsha are hungry for information and they take a general interest in what researchers have to say,” she adds.
More information: Roxanne Beauclair

Lunch time conference on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

On 15 April 2015, the European Commission organised a lunch time conference under the title SRHR – a smart investment for global health and development.
The conference took place in Brussels within the context of the ‘European Year for Development’. The  aim was to bring evidence of how supporting sexual and reproductive health and rights is a fair and efficient intervention to contribute to global health and sustainable development. The confer-ence showcased different EC-funded projects that have been contributing to improving health in South Asia, Eastern Africa and Latin America. Among the presenters was our colleague Sara De Meyer, who presented ICRH’s CERCA project (Community-embedded reproductive health care for adolescents in Latin America). Other presenters were Aurore Guieu of  IPPF European Network, Peter Schaffler of  Marie Stopes International, Joyce Ampumuza of DSW and Véronique Lorenzo of the EC Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO).
Hebei Medical University

On 29 April 2015, a cooperation agreement was signed between Ghent University and Hebei Medical University (HMU)
The cooperation between Hebei Province and the Belgian Province of East Flanders has a history of more than 20 years, and has led to many fruitful contacts and exchanges in different fields. Within this context, also academic cooperation, and more specifically between Hebei Medical University and ICRH/Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of Ghent University has been initiated. Since 2010 there have been regular contacts and exchanges between both institutions. By signing a cooperation agreement, we aim to consolidate our relationship and to intensify our collaboration. It opens the possibility to set up exchange programmes for staff and students, and it creates a framework for new research partnerships.
The agreement was signed during a ceremony in Shijiazhuang, China by prof. dr. Cui Huixian, president of Hebei Medical University, and prof. dr. Guy Vanderstraeten, dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of Ghent University. ICRH was represented by prof. dr. Wei-Hong Zhang, who has initiated the collaboration and who is in addition to senior researcher at ICRH also visiting professor at HMU.

ICRH Belgium Activity Report 2014

The 2014 Activity Report of ICRH Belgium is available and can be downloaded from the ICRH website.

The report contains among others a full overview of projects and publications of 2014. A PDF version can be downloaded at HERE.

Risk factors for stillbirths in Tete, Mozambique

A case-control study to evaluate known risk factors for stillbirth and identify local priorities for stillbirth prevention among institutional deliveries in Tete, Mozambique.
A case–control study was conducted among 150 women who experienced stillbirths and 300 wom-en who experienced live deliveries at three health facilities between December 1, 2009, and April 30, 2011. Case and control individuals were matched for health facility, age, and parity. Sociodemo-graphic, pregnancy, and delivery characteristics (including HIV and syphilis serology) were assessed. Bivariate associations and a conditional logistic regression model identified variables contributing to foetal outcome.
No between-group differences were recorded in the frequency of infection with HIV or syphilis at delivery. Multivariate analysis revealed that stillbirth was associated with direct obstetric complica-tions, low socioeconomic status, and referral during childbirth.
The authors conclude that stillbirths in Tete, Mozambique, were predominantly caused by direct obstetric complications requiring referral among women of low socioeconomic status. Prenatal management of HIV and syphilis limited effects on foetal outcome. Emergency obstetric care and referral systems should be the focus of interventions aimed at stillbirth prevention.
Diederike Geelhoed, Jocelijn Stokx, Xavier Mariano, Carla Mosse Lázaro, Kristien Roelens. Risk factors for stillbirths in Tete, Mozambique. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics. 05/2015, doi:10.1016/j.ijgo.2015.03.027.