Mention of ethical review and informed consent in the reports of research undertaken during the armed conflict in Darfur : a systematic review

Featured Journal Content

BMC Medical Ethics
13 June 2019; 20(40)
Research Article
Mention of ethical review and informed consent in the reports of research undertaken during the armed conflict in Darfur : a systematic review
Ghaiath Hussein, Khalifa Elmusharaf
Abstract
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.