Call for Applications sponsored by the Axa Research Fund

The French Red Cross Foundation has decided to join forces with the AXA Research Fund to launch a call for applications for three postdoctoral fellowships on the theme of sanitary and climatic risk management in developing countries. The AXA Research Fund supports scientists and institutions of excellence whose research is linked to environmental risk, risks to human life, and socio-economic risk.

Research Themes

> Access to Healthcare

Although international law has clearly defined the right to equal access to health care for all, there are still 400 million people in the world who do not have access to essential care, and health remains a priority sector for intervention for a number of NGOs. There has been undeniable progress in terms of life expectancy, infant mortality, and maternal mortality. But this improvement is very unequally distributed and takes place too slowly, especially in the poorest countries. The need for a long-term response to health issues is very pressing indeed.

In Africa especially, where health systems remain particularly fragile, endemic poverty, natural disasters, bloody conflicts, political instability, and the lack or misuse of human resources have all perpetuated the chronic lack of quality care. Currently one in 16 women on the continent die during childbirth and one child in five does not reach the age of five due to respiratory infections, diarrhoea, malaria or measles.

And yet, a number of developing countries possess all the necessary potential to dispense care to their populations. In the manner of the NGO Santé Sud for example, support for local initiatives in closest accordance with existing structures and cultures can enable the optimisation of current health care systems, the (re)medicalisation of rural areas, and improvement in the treatment of vulnerable people (children without family support, geographically isolated populations, pregnant women and newborns, disabled persons, those with mental or chronic illnesses…). Much remains to be done in order for us to understand and dismantle the mechanisms which have led to this absence of care, the development of medical deserts and the exclusion of health on a massive scale in developing countries.

Whether the issues concern primary health care (hygiene, prevention, health education), vulnerable populations (women, street children, refugees), or pandemics (HIV, malaria), which actions and mobilisations might contribute to rendering the right to health more effective and to ensuring the most sustainable access to health care possible? How can we contribute to the medical autonomy of populations whilst respecting their needs and cultural specificities? How can the efficiency of different NGO actions and innovations regarding access to care and medical supervision of vulnerable persons be put to use by different actors from civil society and contribute to the sustainable development of health? How can we encourage this transition in order to lastingly rebuild health systems destroyed by war, or to create systems where there are none, thereby ensuring the autonomy of local health systems?

> Epidémic Risks

Some NGOs, such as MSF, were able to develop real response capacities following the appearance of new pandemics in recent years (cholera in Haiti, meningitis and measles in Niger, Kala-azar in Sudan, etc.). However, with regards the Ebola virus, the Marburg virus disease, or new rapid transmission pandemics accelerated by changes in modes of production (H5N1 avian influenza) or the intensification of population movement enabled by public and air transport systems (H1N1), “most medical NGOs are out of the game”, according to Santé Sud. They show their limitations in the management of sanitary crises which know no borders and rapidly develop into humanitarian and economic crises.

Beyond the medical and scientific aspects, the social and anthropological dimension of epidemics is too often neglected, though it requires an appropriate approach in accordance with the cultural context, lest it become an obstacle to the successful conduct of relief operations. The cross-disciplinary nature of these issues is an incentive for experts to pool their knowledge in order to develop adapted responses which can be locally led by community and political leaders. Whilst international attention has focused on the absence of vaccines and treatment, we must not overlook the weakness of the health system and the capital importance of strengthening it.

How can we anticipate pandemic risk and prepare for it in countries where the health systems are fragile? How can the efficiency of different NGO actions and innovations in terms of epidemic risk anticipation and the treatment of sanitary crises be put to use by different public actors and by civil society, thereby contributing to the reinforcement of local health systems? How can we contribute to the containment of epidemics in accordance with the cultural specificities of local populations? How are awareness campaigns and/or intervention programmes in times of crisis perceived, and what are the main obstacles to their success?

> Climatic Risks and Natural Disasters

Climatic changes and natural hazards have consequences that go well beyond merely environmental impacts. For example, in 2015, on the eve of the COP21 in Paris, a report by the World Bank confirmed the link between climate and poverty, with one of its authors stating that “absent such good development, climate change could result in an additional 100 million people living in extreme poverty by 2030”. The continuing rise of temperatures, increasing frequency of extreme natural disasters and pollution are all factors which will undeniably have an impact on the economies of the most vulnerable countries, which are primarily agricultural and therefore highly dependent on the climate. Climate change also exacerbates conflicts over natural resources, pushing populations into forced migration, who then fall into a legal vacuum since there is as yet no status for climate refugees.

This all leads to humanitarian and sanitary crises with specific causes and management methods. The proliferation of these crises will, according to forecasts, require NGOs, states, businesses, and international institutions to manage increasing volumes of operations in the future. This new context will prompt actors of civil society and international institutions to reshape their action with a view to a transition or to closer affiliation to sustainable development objectives, and local public authorities to opt for innovative methods of disaster risk management (new insurance mechanisms, Disaster Risk Reduction) and energy transition. It is therefore important to ask what these environmental upheavals entail, both in terms of their consequences for populations, and in terms of the development and practice of humanitarian aid.

One of the major challenges is better understanding and anticipating the consequences of current aid programmes, and to integrate the perceptions of risk and adaptation capacities of local populations who are dependent on natural resources. An anthropological reflection needs to be led, which would benefit practices of development and humanitarian aid, concerning some of these programmes which have destructuring effects on social relations and the manner in which resources are managed.

How are the increased environmental risks and the changes affecting the humanitarian sector interlinked? How do they interact in the responses brought to crises? Which actions contribute to reducing vulnerability and improving adaptation to extreme meteorological hazards, with a view to lasting resilience and sustainability? Faced with the imperative of the climatic agenda, how can humanitarian, developmental and environmental NGOs, in both developed and developing countries, emerge from their respective fields in order to better concert their actions on the ground, coordinate their partnerships and carry out collective advocacy actions? How can the operational expertise, scientific know-how, and populations’ perception of risk, be usefully associated with public decision-making in order to improve methods of anticipation and reconstruction management?

Geographic Research Areas

These themes can be addressed in a geographical area including one or several countries. Together with the AXA Research Fund, the Foundation has identified nine priority countries for the purposes of this call:

Burkina Faso


Ivory Coast



Niger (resident researchers only)



Mali (resident researchers only)

The target countries represent empirical starting-points for research. They do not refer to nationality criteria for eligibility.
Access to the field will be conditional on a precise risk evaluation submitted with the application and updated before departure, with prior reference to the recommendations of the French Foreign Ministry.

Postdoctoral Fellowship

 Amount : 17 000 €

Key dates:

• 12 March 2018 : Launch of the call
• 15 April 2018: Deadline for preregistration
• 13 May 2018: Deadline for application
• Early July 2018: Results are announced
• 1 Sept. 2018: Start of research
• 1 Sept. 2019: Work delivered


• Risk Management
• Access to Healthcare
• Natural Disasters
• Epidemic Risks