School of Mathematics, Statistics & Computer Science

Biostatistics PhD Candidate a Member of African Union’s COVID-19 Taskforce

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PhD candidate in Biostatistics, Mr Innocent B Mboya has been invited on to a taskforce for COVID-19 Pandemic Modelling in Africa.

Invited by the African Union Scientific Technical Research Commission through the African Scientific Research and Innovation Council (ASRIC), the Applied Biostatistician and assistant lecturer at Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro Christian Medical University College (KCMUCo) will contribute to efforts to model the COVID-19 pandemic to assist in slowing down the epidemic curve in Africa.

This is Mboya’s first call-up to work with the African Union or with ASRIC on this type of project.

Mboya, who is studying for his doctorate at UKZN under the supervision of Professor Henry Mwambi, joins a team of leading African scientists from diverse backgrounds including medicine and biomedical sciences, epidemiology, statistics, mathematics, and artificial intelligence. Over the course of three months, they will develop a mathematical model to mitigate or ameliorate the spread and impact of COVID-19 in Africa. Their modelling work will also capture some critical aspects of epidemiology, biostatistics and economics.

To collect the data needed for the modelling work, the team will engage African Union member states to obtain the information. Thus far, Mboya has contributed to a concept note describing the purpose of the COVID-19 modelling and drafted a tutorial on data collection and validation for COVID-19 modelling – both will be presented to AU member states.

‘This is critical in informing the need for COVID-19 data, including which types of data are required for effective modelling, given the current data quality challenges in Africa,’ said Mboya.

Mboya emphasised the importance of modelling the spread of COVID-19 in Africa, saying that as COVID-19 has spread in the African region since mid-May after an initial relatively low number of cases, it is important to use data to curb not only the spread of the disease, but its impact in various spheres. He pointed out that the modelling would also inform socio-economic decisions across member states.

Mboya, who completed his MSc in epidemiology and applied biostatistics at KCMUCo, is pursuing his PhD through UKZN, on a scholarship from GlaxoSmithKline and the Sub-Saharan Africa Consortium for Advanced Biostatistics Training. His research involves examining joint predictors of preterm birth and perinatal death among singleton births in northern Tanzania based on a zonal hospital birth registry data between 2000 and 2018. Mboya is pursuing this research in order to contribute to the reduction of avoidable maternal and perinatal deaths in Tanzania and their associated consequences.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied