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Researching the Connection between Mobility and Global Health

Research projects by Ulrike Beisel and Hansjörg Dilger receive funding from the Volkswagen Foundation

№ 133/2022 from Aug 17, 2022

Researchers at Freie Universität Berlin have begun investigating the effects of mobility on global health in two projects that were recently granted funding by the Volkswagen Foundation. Together with a team of researchers from around the world, Ulrike Beisel, professor at the Institute of Geographical Sciences, is looking at the spread of mosquitoes and the diseases they carry in India, Mexico, Tanzania, and Germany. Hansjörg Dilger, professor at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, has teamed up with an international network of researchers to study how mobility was restricted during the Covid-19 pandemic and what the individual, social, and political consequences of this were in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa, South Korea, and Germany. Both projects have been awarded nearly 1.5 million euros in funding for a period of four years.

The researchers were successful with their grant proposals in response to a call for global medicine and health research projects. This was a joint funding initiative launched by a consortium of European foundations in early 2020 – before the effects of Covid-19 had fully come to light. The call for funding, “Mobility – Global Medicine and Health Research,” was initiated by the La Caixa Foundation (Spain), Novo Nordisk Fonden (Denmark), Wellcome Trust (United Kingdom), and the Volkswagen Foundation (Germany). After supporting fifteen pilot studies, the foundations then selected seven of these international, interdisciplinary projects to receive funding amounting to approximately 10 million euros. Three of these projects – two of which are based at Freie Universität – are funded by the Volkswagen Foundation.

The consortium of foundations praised all the projects involved for their interdisciplinary design and the manner in which they combine scientific perspectives with social actors from different countries. In addition to one applicant from a research institution in Denmark, Germany, Spain, or the United Kingdom, each project also involves at least two partners based in low- and middle-income countries outside of Europe.

About the Projects

Mobile Mosquitoes – Understanding the Entangled Mobilities of Aedes Mosquitoes and Humans in India, Mexico, Tanzania, and Germany

The team will investigate how the mobilities of humans and mosquitoes are entangled and what effects human mobility infrastructures have on the spread of certain types of mosquito – and, by extension, on the transmission of illnesses such as dengue fever or Zika virus.

Researchers: Prof. Dr. Ulrike Beisel (Freie Universität Berlin), Dr. Ashwani Kumar (Indian Council of Medical Research, India), Dr. Fredros Okumu (Ifakara Health Research and Development Center, Tanzania), Prof. Dr. Gerardo Suzán (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, Mexico), Dr. Carsten Wergin (Heidelberg University), Dr. Norbert Becker (Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Stechmückenbekämpfung e. V. [Society for the Prevention and Control of Mosquitoes])

Mobility Regimes of Pandemic Preparedness and Response (MoRePPaR): The Case of Covid-19

This project examines the various approaches taken by different countries toward restricting and monitoring mobility during the Covid-19 pandemic and compares these with regard to their individual, social, and political repercussions. The aim is to produce research that will ultimately help improve responses to other epidemics in the future.

Researchers: Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Dilger (Freie Universität Berlin), Prof. Dr. Julia Hornberger (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa), Prof. Dr. Nene Morisho Mwanabiningo (Pole Institute, Democratic Republic of the Congo), Prof. Dr. Bo Kyeong Seo (Yonsei University, South Korea)

Cooperative partners: Dr. Sung-Joon Park (Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Hamburg), Prof. Dr. Martin Doevenspeck (University of Bayreuth), Prof. Dr. Johanna Hanefeld (Robert Koch Institute, Berlin)

Further Information

Call for funding: “Global Issues: Mobility – Global Medicine and Health Research” https://www.volkswagenstiftung.de/en/funding/our-funding-portfolio-at-a-glance/global-issues-mobility-%E2%80%93-global-medicine-and-health-research


  • Prof. Dr. Ulrike Beisel, Institute of Geographical Sciences, professor in human geography, Email: u.beisel@fu-berlin.de
  • Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Dilger, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Medical Anthropology I Global Health Research Area, Email: hansjoerg.dilger@berlin.de