World Food Programme (WFP)

Infectious Disease Modelling Consultant

World Food Programme (WFP)

Job Description

WFP seeks candidates of the highest integrity and professionalism who share our humanitarian principles Selection of staff is made on a competitive basis, and we are committed to promoting diversity and gender balance Title: Infectious Disease Modelling Consultant Org. Unit: African Risk Capacity Duty Station: Johannesburg, South Africa Duration: 6 months, with possibility of extension Contract Type: Regular Consultant Reporting to: Lead Advisor, Outbreaks and Epidemics Background: Emerging infectious diseases pose an increasing threat to health and economic development in Africa. In the past few years, the international community has moved towards a robust and well-coordinated response approach towards public health emergencies (PHE). Despite this, and other improvements in the increased speed of detection and response, rapid deployment of medical countermeasures and vaccines, the presence of timely access to funding in respect to many PHE remains unpredictable. In the circumstances where funding is secured, it is largely on an ad hoc basis and after occurrence of an event of a given magnitude. Slow and unpredictable funding amplifies both the risk and impact of outbreaks. Any delays in mounting an effective response leads to escalation of outbreak with sustained transmission leading to loss of life, socio-economic disruption of the communities, and negative impact on the nation’s development agenda. The African Risk Capacity Specialized Agency of the African Union ARC) provides financial tools and infrastructure to help African Union (AU) Member States manage natural disaster risks and improve the way predictable natural disasters are responded to on the continent by reducing the time it takes for assistance to reach those affected through early and local response. ARC achieves this by bringing together three critical elements that create a powerful value proposition for its participants: early warning, contingency planning and sovereign parametric insurance. Together this package provides governments with access to immediate funds for early and planned responses to support vulnerable populations in the event of disasters. This vehicle allows ARC to help its Members build capacity to lead their own responses and reduce their reliance on the international appeals process for assistance over time. More critically, however, reduced response times save the lives and livelihoods of those affected and protect development gains, essential for growth and building a more disaster-resilient Africa for the future. Overview of ARC Outbreaks & Epidemics (O&E) Programme Following the Ebola crisis that ravaged West Africa, African Ministers of Finance requested the ARC Secretariat in March 2015 to develop a product to address countries’ financing needs to contain outbreaks of viruses and diseases common to the African continent, and in the event of spread or secondary transmission. In the case of Ebola virus disease, financing was only mobilized (depending on the affected country) 4-9 months after the first cases were reported. According to ARC and its partners’ Analysis, beginning the Ebola response just two months earlier could have reduced total number of deaths by 80% in Liberia and Sierra Leone. In March 2014, the WHO issued an Ebola appeal for USD 4.8 million dollars to contain the virus; by September 2014 the UN issued an appeal for nearly USD 1 billion to halt the spreading outbreak. The design of this product is based on four distinct but related workstreams: Risk Profiling; Contingency Planning; Disease modeling with trigger definitions; and a Cost-Benefit Analysis of the ARC O&E model. ARC’s O&E programme is designed to address many of the problems inherent in early response for disease outbreaks and epidemics by:
  • Establishing a pool of cost-effective capital that can be rapidly deployed;

  • Ensuring countries acknowledge O&E by tying declaration of epidemiologic events reported through verifiable sources to immediate financial payouts;

  • Facilitating better health systems strengthening and preparedness (e.g. through better surveillance mechanisms and incentivized contingency planning);

  • Promoting pan-African and sub-regional solidarity and Coordination;

  • Linking the African Union’s and its partners’ investments in the strengthening of health systems, country preparedness and the African Centre for Disease Control into a full ecosystem for pandemic risk management on the continent.

Responsibilities Reporting to the O&E Lead Advisor and working in close collaboration with the broader R&D team, the primary goal of the incumbent would be to build on the epidemic risk models developed by ARC for its outbreaks and epidemics programme and expand on the existing tools for application in all AU member states. ARC has developed Metapopulation Epidemiological Compartment Models for selected acute infectious diseases, with a two country Geographic Scope, and resolution at the Admin-1 subnational level, which incorporate ARC-Specific Preparedness Index Scores. The ARC O&E disease spread models realistically simulate key characteristics of outbreak responses, such as the timing and efficacy of response measures, as well as vaccine campaign size and efficacy. The models utilize the ARC O&E Epidemic Preparedness Index (API) to capture the geographic variation in outbreak preparedness and response capacity. The API quantifies subnational, pathogen-specific preparedness capacity based on relevant healthcare and infrastructure data, as well as a survey of local experts with first-hand experience responding to epidemics. The API is incorporated in the model to systematically adjust certain response-related model inputs according to a location’s response capacity. In addition, as part of its Covid-19 response contribution, ARC has developed COVID-19 Potential Outcomes Scenarios to show the potential impact of the current outbreak under a specific set of scenarios and assumptions; and a COVID-19 Spread Simulation Tool for Africa to enable users to simulate different COVID-19 spread scenarios for each African country, and observe the impact of different non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI) policies. The models conceptualization, design, and outputs were subjected to an exclusively assembled ARC O&E Technical Review Committee (TRC), alongside the ARC’ s Expert Advisory Panel (EAP) Members and other external partners. Specific Tasks
  • The Consultant will manage the modelling work of the ARC outbreaks and epidemics programme, working closely with ARC O&E Modelling Agent and in-house modelling and Data Management teams, to develop and enhance existing ARC modules for infectious diseases;

  • Advise the O&E team and AU Member states involved in the O&E programme to develop codes and run stochastic modelling simulations; conduct model sensitivity and robustness analyses, develop disease outbreak scenarios and verification/validation of model outputs, including size and pattern of outbreak/pandemic spread in terms of number of cases and deaths;

  • Provide technical advice or mobilise technical expertise, on a wide range of programme and policy issues including assessment and analysis, the choice of objectives, activities, related to ARC’s expansion of modelling of current O&E pathogens and expansion to include new disease pathogens and more countries.

  • Develop and manage data collation and analysis, interpret and present results to a high standard to senior management and Countries.

  • Advise Senior managers and provide recommendations in expanding on current epidemic risk models developed and the development of a User Interface;

  • Take responsibility and coordinate the engagement with ARC’s review and advisory committees and external partners.

  • Develop operational partnerships and maintain established strategic partnerships to identify opportunities for collaborative approaches and initiatives that improve ARC’s modelling capacity, knowledge and support to African Union Member states.

  • Enhance ARC’s leadership status in different forums on subjects related to infectious disease modelling, outbreaks and epidemics in Africa, and other related issues through direct participation, briefings, information products and other materials.

  • Manage or oversee operational research and evidence building on issues relevant to infectious disease, stochastic modelling  and simulations.

Deliverables
  • Provide an inception report that outlines how the incumbent will lead the O&E modelling work, build on current collaborations and expand on scope and quality of current models;

  • Produce a report of support provided to AU Member states to run the O&E epidemic risk models, provide Technical Support on codes, run stochastic modelling simulations; conduct model sensitivity and robustness analyses;

  • Manage or oversee preparation and dissemination of timely analytical and critical reports, publications, and a variety of information products or proposals for internal or external use on the ARC O&E models.

  • Review and provide guidance on the User Interface to ensure content meets user expectations and needs;

  • Produce reports by collating and analysing data, present results to a high standard using a range of specialised research techniques;

  • Coordinate the engagement with ARC’s review and advisory committees, produce quarterly reports, and follow up on ARC’s review and advisory committee’s recommendations.

Academic Background At a minimum, a master’s degree in one of the following areas: mathematical modelling of infectious diseases epidemiology, public health emergencies, bioinformatics, computational biology, mathematics, statistics, physics, Computer Science, population biology or a similarly quantitative discipline. Work Experience and other relevant skills
  • Minimum of 6-10 years professional working experience with proficiency required for programming languages such as R and Python, and ability to work in Julia or C/C++, SQL.

  • The candidates must have demonstrated experience in outbreak analysis and  mathematical model-based forecasting;

  • Experience of working with mathematical and Statistical Models;

  • A strong interest in infectious disease epidemiology;

  • Ability to analyse large datasets

  • Critical thinking and strong communication and presentation skills.

  • Strong analytical thinking and problem-solving skills

  • Experience working with African countries, regional or continental African institutions

  • Fluency in oral and written English;

  • Intermediate knowledge of another AU official language – Arabic, French or Portuguese – highly desirable.

Consultancy duration This vacancy for an Infectious Disease Modelling Expert is to fulfill a key role within the ARC O&E Team. This Regular Consultancy is envisaged to be conducted for 6 months, with possibility of extension subject to satisfactory performance and budget. Terms and Conditions WFP offers a competitive compensation package which will be determined by the contract type and selected candidate’s qualifications and experience. Deadline for applications: 123402 Ref.: VA No. 4 August 2020 Qualified female applicants and qualified applicants from developing countries are especially encouraged to apply WFP has zero tolerance for discrimination and does not discriminate on the basis of HIV/AIDS status No appointment under any kind of contract will be offered to members of the UN Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), FAO Finance Committee, WFP External Auditor, WFP Audit Committee, Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) and other similar bodies within the United Nations system with oversight responsibilities over WFP, both during their service and within three years of ceasing that service.
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