Professor Lucie Cluver

Lucie Cluver is a Professor of Child and Family Social Work, in the Centre for Evidence-Based Social Intervention in the Department of Social Policy and Intervention, and an Honorary Professor in Psychiatry and Mental Health at the University of Cape Town. She is a Professorial Governing Body Fellow at Nuffield College.

She works closely with the South African government, UNDP, USAID-PEPFAR, UNICEF, UNAIDS, UNODC, the World Health Organisation and many other international agencies, to provide evidence that can improve the lives of children and adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa.

PI Professor Cluver has an exceptional track record of impact, and in the past three years has been selected as a winner of: the University of Oxford Vice Chancellor’s Innovation and Engagement award 2022; the UK Research and Innovation International Impact Award 2021; UKRI Women in Science (2021); O2RB Excellence in Impact Award 2021; the European Union Horizon 2020 Impact Award. In 2019, she was recognised as one of UKRI’s 15 Women with Impact in Research. 

Lucie is lucky to work with an incredible and dedicated team of PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, and colleagues. Together, they lead large-scale longitudinal surveys and randomised controlled trials of interventions, combined with participatory research with adolescents and young people.

From 2019, Lucie is the Principal Investigator for the UKRI GCRF Accelerating Achievement for Africa's Adolescents Hub, and from 2022 Co-PI of the Global Parenting Initiative. During COVID-19, Lucie and Dr Jamie Lachman led the COVID-19 Emergency Parenting Response, working with WHO, UNICEF, the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children, UNODC, CDC, and USAID to develop evidence-based open-source resources for everyone struggling to look after their children in lockdowns and school closures. These resources have reached over 210 million people in 198 countries and territories, and have been used by 34 governments in their national COVID responses The team is now working to provide evidence-based parenting support for crisis contexts in Ukraine and Pakistan.


The UKRI GCRF Accelerate Hub

The goal of this research programme is to promote success for Africa’s adolescents and the children of adolescent parents. The Hub works in 34 countries across Africa to identify effective services with synergies across multiple Sustainable Development Goals: ‘Accelerators’. It responds to requests from policymakers for evidence that helps them to make the best, cost-effective policies for their adolescents. Partners include the African Union Development Agency, UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA, UNAIDS, UN Women, regional NGOs providing direct services, and African and UK universities. It works closely with adolescents themselves as co-leaders in design and impact. The Hub has a particular focus on capacity-sharing for early-career African academics. (Accelerate Hub is led by three co-Directors: Prof Lucie Cluver, Prof Lorraine Sherr MBE, Prof Chris Desmond).   

Supporting parents and preventing violence against children

Lucie co-leads the Parenting for Lifelong Health (PLH) initiative – a collaboration between the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, and academics to provide evidence-based, non-commercialised child violence prevention programmes for LMIC. Since 2012, the PLH team has developed and tested programmes in 15 randomised controlled trials.  These programmes are  being scaled-up in 30 countries across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, India, and Latin America, and are available free on the WHO website. The PLH team is working with implementing partners to pool data collected across these locations, so that we can better understand programme delivery and effectiveness at scale. (PLH co-leads: Prof Cathy Ward, Prof Frances Gardner, Prof Mark Tomlinson, Dr Daniel Oliver, Dr Jamie Lachman, Dr Inge Wessels). This project has evolved into the Global Parenting Initiative, led by Dr Jamie Lachman, which is testing hybrid and digital delivery approaches to support evidence-based parenting at scale.

Addressing COVID-19-associated orphanhood

Across the world, 10.5 million children have lost a caregiver from COVID, and this number will continue to rise alongside further waves of the pandemic. Those regions whose unvaccinated populations face the greatest surges in orphanhood are also the least prepared to address them – having younger demographic profiles and weaker economies with fewer resources and support systems in place. Accelerate Hub works within a global reference group of experts (including WHO, CDC, USAID, the World Bank, Maestral International, World Without Orphans, and academics of many nationalities) to establish up to date evidence of numbers and locations of children affected by COVID-19 orphanhood, and to develop effective evidence-based interventions to support policy and programming that can mitigate the severe and complex consequences for these bereaved children’s development into adulthood. Our team’s collaborative work has fostered growing recognition of this crisis, including an Executive Order issued by President Biden, a Vatican statement, and funding commitment from the World Bank’s Rapid Social Response Program. Our ongoing research and linked policy advocacy is building the evidence base and methodological and conceptual underpinnings for addressing the needs of the most vulnerable children during pandemic and other humanitarian crises.

Preventing violence during COVID-19

Accelerate Hub leads a coalition of WHO, UNICEF, the Global Partnership to End Violence, USAID, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in co-developed, open-source COVID-19 parenting resources, condensing evidence from our multiple RCTs of child abuse prevention programmes in Africa, Asia, and Europe, which were started with ERC-supported project PACCASA and continued with CAPITA and HEY BABY. In March 2020, at the start of the first COVID-19 lockdown, these parenting support materials were endorsed by all collaborating agencies and released onto the WHO and UNICEF COVID-19 websites, alongside a letter in The Lancet. These child abuse prevention resources have reached over 210  million families in  198 countries and territories. They have been translated into 100+ languages and disseminated and used in national emergency responses by 34 governments:  Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, France, Guatemala, Germany, Honduras, Jamaica, Iceland, India, Ireland Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Montenegro, Namibia, Palestine, Paraguay, Philippines, Peru, Portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, South Sudan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine, UK, USA, Vietnam.

Cash plus care for adolescents in Africa

Working with a dedicated team and in close collaboration with policymakers, Lucie has pioneered research on ‘cash plus care’ – examining the impacts of social protection and psychosocial care on adolescent health. This has led to UNAIDS and UNICEF guidance and delivery of cash + care programmes to an estimated 2.5 million children and adolescents in Southern and Eastern Africa (with Prof Mark Orkin, Prof Lorraine Sherr MBE, Dr Mark Boyes, Dr Franziska Meinck).

Supporting success for adolescents living with HIV (Mzantsi Wakho) and young parents (HEY BABY)

With Associate Professor Dr Elona Toska (University of Cape Town), Lucie co-leads the first community-based large panel of HIV-positive adolescents and uninfected peers, including 1500 adolescents in South Africa over four years.

Also with A/Prof Elona Toska, Lucie co-leads the first known longitudinal study in Africa to assess pathways to resilience amongst adolescent parent families living with and without HIV. This ongoing study includes 1,000+ adolescent parent and child dyads. This project works closely with the South African government and UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Office to identify evidence-based solutions for young mothers and their children.

Previous work

Lucie has led several additional major longitudinal studies: the ‘Young Carers Study’ (2008-2012, with Dr Mark Boyes) was the world’s largest study of risk and resilience amongst AIDS-affected children, including 6000 children with longitudinal follow-up in South Africa; the ‘Orphan Resilience Study’ (2005-2009, with Prof Frances Gardner) followed 1000 children over four years to identify impacts of orphanhood.


The team’s work has won numerous awards, including  selection as a winner of the University of Oxford Vice Chancellor’s Innovation and Engagement award 2022, the UK Research and Innovation International Impact Award 2021, O2RB Excellence in Impact Award Winners 2021, the International AIDS Society: Biennial Prize for Excellence in HIV research for Children, European Union Horizon 2020 Impact Award, European Union Council Conference Social Sciences and Humanities Impact Award (2019), ESRC Oxford University Excellence in Impact Award (2018), ESRC's Outstanding International Impact Prize (2017), the Philip Leverhulme Prize (2015), the International AIDS Society Young Investigator Award (2014), and the Discovery Clinical Excellence Award (2013). Prof Cluver was included in UKRI’s ‘Women with Impact’ (2019) and in UNICEF’s ‘Women at the heart of the HIV response for Children’ (2018).

Working together and promoting early-career authorship, Lucie’s team has published over 200 papers in peer-reviewed journals including the Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, the Lancet Global Health, BMJ Global Health, AIDS, JAIDS, J Child Psychiatry and Psychology, Social Science and Medicine, AIDS Care and Prevention Science.

This research has been generously supported by:

UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund, Medical Research Council (MRC), UK Department for International Development (DFID), UK Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), National Institutes of Health Research (NIHR), the Oak Foundation, European Research Council (ERC), the Nuffield Foundation, Research England, Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V., part of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Leverhulme Trust, UKAID, the National Research Foundation (South Africa), UNICEF, USAID-PEPFAR, Ilifa Labantwana, the Claude Leon Foundation, the National Department of Social Development (South Africa), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the John Fell Fund, University of Oxford’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, Regional Inter-Agency Task Team for Children Affected by AIDS – Eastern and Southern Africa (RIATT-ESA), Gates Foundation, Wellspring Advisors, ELMA Philanthropies, Rockefeller Foundation, the International AIDS Society through the CIPHER grant, FHI360, the University of Oxford’s Clarendon Scholarship Fund, HelpAge, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency,  South African National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund , UNFPA South Africa, The World Food Programme, The LEGO Foundation, COVID 19 Research Response Fund, Medical Sciences, Oxford, HEFCE-GCRF Support Fund, The Global Fund,  Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, a private family Trust which wishes to remain anonymous.

Selected publications

Cluver, L, Sherr, L, Toska, E, Zhou, S, Mellins, CA, Ameyan, W, Desmond, C, Willis, N, Nombewu, A, Laurenzi, C, Tomlinson, M, Myeketsi, N (2022) From surviving to thirving: integrating mental health care into community and family services for adolescents living with HIV. The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health. Commissioned paper for Series. 

Hillis, S, Unwin, J, Flaxman, S, Cluver, L, Villaveces, A, Ntwali N’konzi, J-P, Msemburi, W (2022) 10.2 million children affected by COVID-associated orphanhood and caregiver death. Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA Pediatrics).

Cluver, L*, Rudgard, W* (joint first authors), Toska, E, Orkin, M, Ibrahim, M, Langwenya, N, Kuo, C, Xaba, N, Roehm, K, Smith, M, Bernardini, S, Giordana, G, Mumma, M, Kingori, J, Yates, R, Sherr, L (2022) Food security reduces multiple HIV infection risks for high-vulnerability adolescent mothers and non-mothers in South Africa: A cross-sectional study. Journal of the International AIDS Society.

Unwin, J, Hillis, S, Cluver, L, Flaxman, S, Goldman, P, Butchart, A, Bachman, G, Rawlings, L, Donnelly, C, Ratmannm O, Green, P, Nelson, C, Blenkinsop, A, Bhatt, S, Desmond, C, Villaveces, A, Sherr, L (2022) More than 5.2 million children affected by global surges in COVID-associated orphanhood and caregiver death: new evidence for national responses. Lancet Child and Adolescent Health. 6. 4. 249-259.

Cluver, L, Perks, B, Rakotomalala, S, Butchart, A, Hillis, S, Maalouf, W, Awah, I, Green, P, Borisova, I, Melville, A, Shenderovich, Y, El Khani, A, Blight, S, Bunkers, K, Zonji, S, Carvalho, C, Lachman, J, Sherr, L (in press) Ukraine’s children: Evidence to support child protection in emergencies. British Medical Journal. BMJ 2022;376:o781

Dhaliwal, M, Small, R, Webb, D, Cluver, L, Ibrahim, M, Bok, L, Nascimento, C, Wang, C, Garagic, A Jensen, L (2022) The COVID-19 pandemic as a polywave event: implications for responses to safeguard generations. British Medical Journal. 376:e068123

Hillis, S, Unwin, J, Chen, Y, Cluver, L, Sherr, L, Goldman, P, Ratmann, O, Donnelly, C, Bhatt, S, Villaveces, A, Bachman, G, Butchart, A, Rawlings, L, Green, P, Nelson, C, Flaxman, S (2021) Global Minimum estimates for COVID-19 associated orphanhood and deaths amongst caregivers. The Lancet.

Cluver, L*, Shenderovich, Y* (joint first authors), Toska, E, Rudgard, W, Zhou, S, Orkin, M, Haghighat, R, Chetty, N, Kuo, C, Armstrong, A, Sherr, L (2021) Clinic and Care: associations with adolescent ART adherence in a prospective cohort in South Africa. AIDS. 35.8.1263-1271.

Cluver, L*, Rudgard, W* (equal first authors), Toska, E, Zhou, S, Campeau, L, Shenderovich, Y, Orkin, M, Desmond, C, Butchart, A, Taylor, H, Meinck, F, Sherr, L (2020) Violence prevention accelerators for children and adolescents in South Africa: a path analysis using two pooled cohorts. PLOS Medicine. PLoS Med. 2020 Nov 9;17(11):e1003383. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003383. eCollection 2020 Nov. 

Perks, B and Cluver, L (2020) The Parenting Vaccine. Nature Human Behaviour. (correspondence) 4. 985. Oct 2020.

Cluver, L, Lachman, J, Sherr, L, Wessels, I, Krug, E, Rakotomalala, S, Blight, S, Hillis, S, Bachman, G, Green, O, Butchart, A, Tomlinson, M, Ward, C, Doubt, J, McDonald, K (2020 Apr 11) Parenting in a time of COVID-19. The Lancet. (letter) Volume 395, ISSUE 10231, e64.

Sherr, L, Cluver, L, Desmond, C, Toska, E, Aber, L, Dhaliwal, M, Webb. D, Dugbazah, J (2020 May) A new vehicle to accelerate the UN Sustainable Development Goals’. Lancet Global Health (commentary). 8(5): e637–e638. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(20)30103-0.

Ward, C, Wessels, I, Lachman, J, Hutchings, J, Cluver, L, Kassanjee, R, Nhapi, R, Little, F, Gardner, F (2020 Apr) Parenting for Lifelong Health for Young Children: A randomized controlled trial of a parenting program in South Africa to prevent harsh parenting and child conduct problems. Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology. 61(4):503-512. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.13129.

Oxford Research Archive
Current projects
Completed projects
Current students
Previous students

Lucie's previous DPhil students have gone on to be successful in academia, policy, and practice:

  • Caroline Kuo is Associate Professor at American University
  • Tyler Lane is a Senior Research Fellow at Monash University
  • Franziska Meinck is Associate Professor in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh
  • Beth Vale is a lecturer in Anthropology at the University of The Witwatersrand
  • Jamie Lachman is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Evidence-Based Interventions at Oxford
  • Elona Toska is an Associate Professor at the University of Cape Town
  • Roxanna Haghighat is a medical student at Harvard University, USA
  • Sasheenie Moodley is a medical student at Emory University, USA
  • Janina Steinert is Professor of Global Health at Technischen Universität München
  • Victor Orozco is a Senior Economist at the World Bank
  • Janina Jochim is a Postdoc at Oxford
  • Yulia Shenderovich is a Senior Lecturer at Cardiff University
  • Rocio Herrero Romero is Associate Professor at Universidad Autonoma de Madrid       
  • Marija Pantelic is lecturer in Public Health at University of Sussex Medical School

Lucie is interested in supervising students who are absolutely dedicated to improving outcomes for children and young people in Africa. She is not interested in research without real impact. A really good grasp of statistics and teamwork are essential. She especially welcomes students from the African region.