Operational response simulation tool for epidemics within refugee and IDP settlements

Pulse Lab New York

Project Description

To support data-driven decision making in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a team made up of Cox’s Bazar public health and information management professionals, scientists and domain experts from UN Global Pulse, UNHCR Innovation, OCHA, and academics from Durham University and IBM/MIT are working to model the impact of possible public health operational interventions in the Cox’s Bazar refugee settlement in Bangladesh.

The spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19 presents many challenges to healthcare systems and infrastructures across the world, exacerbating inequalities and leaving the world’s most vulnerable populations most affected.  Given their density and available infrastructure, refugee and internally displaced person (IDP) settlements can be particularly susceptible to disease spread. Non-pharmaceutical public health interventions can be used to mitigate transmission, and modeling efforts  can  provide  crucial  insights  on  the  potential  effectiveness  of  such  interventions to help inform decision making processes.

UN Global Pulse, alongside its partners, developed an agent-based modelling approach based on the JUNE epidemiological modelling framework which  is informed by data on geography, demographics, comorbidities, physical infrastruc ture  and  other  parameters  obtained  from  real-world  observations  and  previous literature.  The project developed a visual analytics tool which allows decision makers to distill insights by comparing the results of different simulations and scenarios. Simulating their effects on the epidemiological development of  COVID-19,  allows a more efficient evaluation of  public  health  interventions  ranging  from  increasing mask wearing compliance to the reopening of learning institutions that had previously been closed.

Based on the success of this project, UN Global Pulse is currently working to adapt this modeling approach to contexts in Somalia, working with UNHCR and relevant country teams and implementing partners.

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