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Table 3 Research challenges, solutions and key lessons learned

From: Lessons learned evaluating the baby friendly spaces program for south Sudanese refugees in Gambella, Ethiopia: strengthening research and programmatic partnerships to address maternal and child health and psychosocial needs in humanitarian emergencies

Research Challenges Solutions Key Lessons learned
Ongoing conflict and extreme conditions
• Denied or restricted access to Nguenyyiel, particularly among Nuer staff members
• Disruptions in BFS service provision, data collection and monitoring activities
• Restricted movement in the camp, relocation in the camp or to the host community among study participants
• Extreme heat
• Recurrent exposure to stress and trauma among study participants
• Hire new staff and transfer staff members from neighboring camps to help deliver BFS services
• Amend research protocol to allow for data collection in the homes of participants
• Conduct community outreach activities to identify the new addresses of study participants after relocating
• Prioritizing and ensuring the safety and health of participants and BFS staff members requires critical problem-solving skills and flexibility to achieve the research objectives and minimize loss to follow-up.
Implementation of a new data monitoring system
• Limited and slow internet access
• Difficulty and delays uploading data and duplicate data entries
• Limited exposure to smart-phone- tablet applications
• Lack of local experienced information technology staff
• Perform data uploads at night or at the office of partner organizations with stronger internet connection
• Hold regular skype calls with Action Against Hunger headquarters and use of Team Viewer (remote desktop software)
• Establish and troubleshoot new data and monitoring systems prior to conducting research.
Staff capacity, disruption and turnover
• Need for individualized support among research assistants
• Limited computer skills among qualitative research assistants
• Staff turnover due to competitive employment packages from other humanitarian actors in the camp
• Hold remote trainings for new hires and current staff at the Action Against Hunger Gambella office
• Allocate ample time for research assistants to practice administering the questionnaire and review all data collected with the respective research assistants to check for errors and identify solutions to any challenges
• Conduct IDIs in pairs with one research assistant and expanded ID notes while listening to the audio following the interview
• Conduct continuous recruitment of BFS Staff
• Incentivize staff members with contract extensions
• Weekly skype calls among the study team
• Allocate ample time to staff training and capacity building, and frame trainings as a career enhancing opportunity
• Communicate challenges related to study implementation and delays with staff members
• Include transcription skills in qualitative trainings
Quantitative assessment in populations with limited education opportunities
• Illiteracy of study participants led to difficulty understanding questions and selecting response options
• Conduct independent translation and back translation of Nuer measures to make them more understandable among participants.
• Update Nuer terminology and phrasing with assistance of Nuer staff members
• Use flash cards with pictorial representations to aid participant understanding of response categories
• Work with local staff to help ensure the understandability and appropriateness of terminology and phrasing of questionnaire items.