Molly Gilmour


Research title: How can we strengthen emergency healthcare for forced migrants situated on the edges of Europe?

Research Summary

Power and Participation in Humanitarian Aid Assemblages: A Case Study of a Paediatric Noncommunicable Disease Unit in Lebanon

Thesis Abstract

Over time, the humanitarian healthcare sector has evolved into a complex system of specialised organisations, shaped by geopolitical, cultural, social, and economic forces, that influence global social and political decision-making. Humanitarian healthcare settings can be spaces of great power inequity. This study took place in Lebanon, a conflict-affected state reliant on international humanitarian healthcare due to compounded shocks and state neglect. I explore how a pandemic, a terrible explosion and an economic collapse impacted people in one paediatric Noncommunicable Disease (NCD) unit. This research contributes to the wider debate on the necessity for long-term NCD treatment in humanitarian contexts, often offering temporary care.

This thesis explores power and participation in aid assemblages, investigating the relationships and connections between ideas, the international headquarters and on the ground project implementation. The objective was to develop the understanding of the power formation processes in humanitarian healthcare, tracing project decisions and their consequences, and whether participatory socio-culturally responsive methods support in decentering power in low-resource spaces of aid. While participatory approaches are well-studied in supporting patients and healthcare workers in the ‘Global North’, their application in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) remains less understood. This study was conducted with Syrian families who accessed Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) services for paediatric NCD care and MSF staff, with an independent Syrian researcher, Belal Shukair. Methods included audio diaries, interviews, document analysis and codevelopment groups, fostering a social justice-oriented methodological approach.

This research documents the micro-processes of the everyday discrimination, mechanisms and assumptions about power hierarchies in aid assemblages. There were significant methodological differences between staff and service users. Staff engaged to collectively improve the NCD service, while service prioritised concerns beyond thalassemia treatment. Lebanon’s crises exposed stark inequalities. This study details the decision-making processes and consequences of MSF’s service redesign in response to the crises, how staff resisted and reformed the structures of aid. Syrian service users described the increasingly constrained healthcare access and the tactics they used to secure care. All participants expressed a shared sense of loss amid crises. Amid the economic collapse, participants debated the value of healthcare. The analogy of a collapsing tent illustrated aid-induced precarity. While their experiences differed, their meanings were expressed in similar ways.

The aid sector, relying on precarious staff contracts and project funding, responds to healthcare needs in spaces of crises but often neglects a biosocial approach to long-term care for NCDs. I evidence that Western-centric value system construct the humanitarian healthcare sector, as value was often interpreted as value for money. Postcolonial systems erase the complexity of health, shaping how people see healthcare needs and service design. I argue that considering the value of what the healthcare means to individuals who receive it, alongside considering what it accomplishes at a macro epidemiological level, will achieve a localised, way of understanding health, reducing cultural collisions. Moreover, it will meet the increasingly needed permanent, continuity-focused health care aid to ensure that NCDs treatment is not compromised in humanitarian contexts. Taking this approach enables a move beyond traditional practices of meeting basic needs for survival towards enhancing lives.

This work is a response to the critique of humanitarian healthcare structures, the call for improved accountability, sustainability and patient centred care. This research contributes to the understanding of chronic illness management in conflict-affected settings and whether participatory approaches may prove to be a useful method in developing long-term care in humanitarian healthcare settings

Keywords: Humanitarian Healthcare; NCDs; Lebanon; Participatory Methods


Research Interests

  • Medical Sociology
  • Humanitarian Aid 
  • Participatory Research Methods
  • Humanitarian Affairs
  • Refugee Studies

Disciplines include: Anthropology; Psychosociology; Community Learning & Engagement and Sociology


List by: Type | Date

Number of items: 3.


Piacentini, T. , Gilmour, M., Joy, A. and Aksu, P. (2022) “How about asylum seekers who are homeless?” The racialised logics behind State designed strategies of containment and control during Covid-19 and anti-racist alternatives: a Glasgow case study. International Journal on Homelessness, (doi: 10.5206/ijoh.2022.2.14969) (Early Online Publication)

Book Sections

Piacentini, T. , Mirza, N. and Gilmour, M. (2022) Challenges of language, accessibility and ethics when conducting digital interviews in the virtual space. In: SAGE Research Methods: Doing Research Online. SAGE Publishing. ISBN 9781529601305 (doi: 10.4135/9781529601305)

Research Reports or Papers

Armstrong, S. et al. (2020) Left out and locked down: impacts of COVID-19 for marginalised groups in Scotland. Project Report. University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland.

This list was generated on Tue Jan 31 12:41:32 2023 GMT.


  • Cloughton, B Gilmour, M. Student-Led Training Fund (SLTF): Affective Reimagining: The University for Us. Scottish Graduate School of Social Science. £1,200. 10/09/2020 – 11/09/2020
  • Penney, J Gilmour, M. BSA Postgraduate Regional Event: Facilitating Holistic Wellbeing in the Research Process. British Sociological Society. £1,000. 24/01/2020
  • Gilmour, M. Travel Grant: National Centre for Competency in Research, Switzerland. £550. 20/08/2017 – 25/08/2017
  • Gilmour, M. Travel Grant. Institute of Migration and Ethnic Studies, Greece. €300. 17/01/2017 – 30/01/2017


Speaker: IMESCO Annual Conference: University Institute of Lisbon: July 2024 (forthcoming)

Speaker: World Conference on Humanitarian Studies: North South University: November 2023

Speaker: IMESCO Annual Conference: Warsaw & Online: 4th July 2023

Speaker: UNESCO Rila Spring School: 5th May 2023

Speaker: British Sociological Association: University of Manchester: 13th April 2023

Speaker: Irish Global Health Conference: Trinity College Dublin: 26th October 2022

Guest Lecture in Health Policy and Systems: Saint Joseph University of Beirut: 30th April 2022

Chair: Afghan Women’s Rights Series: Development Studies of Ireland: 25th October 2021

Speaker: Equitable Research Partnerships: Humanitarian Action Study Group: 8th July 2020

Speaker: University of Glasgow College of Social Science Conference: 1st November 2019

Speaker: People on the Move in an Evolving Europe: Université de Fribourg: 20th - 25th August 2017




University of Edinburgh

2023 - 2024: MBChB Medicine and Surgery: Research and Evidence-Based Medicine; Teaching 50 1st year Undergraduate Students

University of Glasgow

2022 - 2023: MSc Global Health: Anthropology in Global Health; Designing, teaching and developing the new MSc Module

2022 - 2023: BA Sociology: Self and Society; Teaching 90 1st year Undergraduate Students an introduction to Sociology

2021 - 2022: MA Social and Political Science: Qualitative Research Methods; Leading Participatory Workshops for 60 students

2019 - 2019: BA Sociology: Criminology, Anthropology and Critical Media Studies; Teaching 50 1st year Undergraduate Students

Guest Lecturing

2023: Saint Joseph University of Beirut: MSc Health Policy and Systems

2023: University of Glasgow: MSc Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases & Antimicrobial Resistance: Societal Aspects of AMR

2023: University of Glasgow: MSc Global Health: Health and Culture

2023: University of Glasgow: MSc Migration and Social Justice: A Public Social Science for Social Justice

2022: Saint Joseph University of Beirut: MSc Health Policy and Systems

Additional Information


MSc. Sociology: Migration and Ethnic Studies, University of Amsterdam

Thesis: A Review of the Linkage Act 1998: how accessible are health services for undocumented migrants in Amsterdam?

BA (Hons) Contemporary Culture and Society, Dublin City University

Dissertation: ‘Intercultural Inclusion?’ Exploring the Irish Traveller Communities’ Perception of ‘An Garda Síochána’ [Irish Police Force]


Relevant Coordination and Advisory Roles 

Editorial Board Member: Berkeley Journal of Sociology; Sept ‘22 - June '23

Anthropologist and Health Promotor: Médecins Sans Frontiers; Jun ‘22 - Present

Co-convenor: DSAI Humanitarian Action Study Group; Nov ‘20 – Dec ‘21

Editorial Board Member: E-Sharp Academic Journal; Sept ‘19 – Sept ‘20

Community Hub Advisor: Simon Community; Oct ‘19 – Jan ‘20


Certificates Including:

Dec '22: Developing as a Teacher in Higher Education: AFHEA, University of Glasgow

July '20: Methods and re(design) of Fieldwork in Anthropology & STS; IT - University of Copenhagen

June '20: Health in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies; Emory University & CDC

May '20: Project Management (Level 3); Chartered Management Institute

Aug '17: People on the Move in an Evolving Europe (Migration Law); Université de Fribourg, Switzerland

Jan '17: Migration in the Margins of Europe (Anthropology); Institute of Migration and Ethnic Studies, Athens

Aug '15: Research Methodology and Design; University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Mar '13: SUAS Global Issues Course; Dublin City University, Ireland

09-10: Journalism for the Digital Age; Dún Laoghaire Further Education Institute, Ireland



Native: English

Intermediate: Dutch, French, Arabic 

Beginner: Irish