Serious epidemic livestock diseases have the potential to cause catastrophic production losses, constrain international trade in livestock and livestock products, and threaten food security. EMPRES is concerned with transboundary diseases which are defined as:
“those that are of significant economic, trade and/or food security importance for a considerable number of countries; which can easily spread to other countries and reach epidemic proportions; and where control/management, including exclusion, requires co-operation between several countries”.
The EMPRES vision is
“To promote the effective containment and control of the most serious epidemic livestock diseases as well as newly emerging diseases by progressive elimination on a regional and global basis through international co-operation involving EARLY WARNING, EARLY/RAPID REACTION, ENABLING RESEARCH and COORDINATION”.
Early Warning is identified as all disease initatives, which would be based predominantly on epidemiological surveillance, that would lead to improved awareness and knowledge of the distribution of disease or infection and that might permit the forecasting further evolution of an outbreak.
Early Reaction is identified as all actions that would be targeted at rapid and effective containment of, and leading, to the elimination of a disease outbreak, thus preventing it from turning into a serious epidemic. This includes contingency planning and emergency preparedness.
Enabling Research is identified as a prime element of EMPRES which emphasizes the collaboration between FAO and scientific centres of excellence in directing research efforts towards problem solving.
Coordination involves either coordination of global eradication for an identified animal disease, such as rinderpest, eg., through the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme, or encouraging regional initiatives for eradication of a given transboundary animal disease.
Infectious diseases are a major cause of avoidable financial losses in livestock systems. Many of the diseases e.g. mastitis and parasitic gastro-enteritis occur commonly in most livestock systems and their effects can be reduced by good husbandry and preventive medicine. Other diseases are or can be epidemic i.e. they occur sporadically and when, through the movement of infected animals or contaminated animal products, they invade previously uninfected areas they can cause enormous losses. These epidemic disease require community, national or international efforts to effect their control.
Epidemics of diseases such as rinderpest and foot and mouth disease disrupt livestock systems by:
Epidemic diseases occur more commonly in the subsistence or extensive agricultural systems of developing countries. The risk of large scale transboundary epidemics has occurred more frequently in recent years due to the growth in international livestock movements, the breakdown of sanitary control systems, e.g. border controls, and the occurrence of civil disturbances. For example, rinderpest spread from the Northern Governorates of Iraq into Turkey and Iran and, in Africa, CBPP has spread alarmingly from the long-established endemic foci to establish newly-infected areas in Botswana and eastern and central Africa (Uganda, Zaire, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya).
The prevention of the epidemics requires effective EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS and depends, firstly, on the development of EARLY WARNING systems that enable early detection of disease before it can spread and, secondly, an ensured EARLY REACTION capacity at country or regional level so as to reduce the interval between the onset of a disease outbreak and the initiation of effective controls.
Effective EARLY WARNING and EARLY REACTION require continuous RESEARCH that will improve control strategies or provide the necessary technical aids such as laboratory tests and vaccines.
form the objectives of the EMPRES programme (funding for which was approved by the 106th Session of the FAO Council) which is intended to bring new approaches and new elements into FAO activities. This programme has been in operation for over a year and experience gained during this period indicates a need to strengthen its scope and activities.
3. THE PRESENT ARRANGEMENTS for dealing with transboundary epidemic diseases.
The control or eradication of livestock diseases is primarily the responsibility of national governments, whose executive for this purpose, is the national veterinary service.
Veterinary services are aided in this task by various international organizations in addition to FAO and its regional commissions. These include:
the OFFICE INTERNATIONAL DES EPIZOOTIES (OIE),
the WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO), where the epidemic diseases of livestock also affect human health, and
REGIONAL intergovernmental organizations such as the PAN AMERICAN HEALTH ORGANIZATION (PAHO) the EUROPEAN COMMISSION (EC) and the INTER-AFRICAN BUREAU FOR ANIMAL RESOURCES (IBAR) of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
The OIE, based in Paris, has acquired de facto responsibility for developing and maintaining the zoosanitary norms necessary for international trade. To this end it has developed and Animal Health Code on which the international trade in animals and animal products should be based. It also maintains, in collaboration with FAO and WHO, an information system, to which all the member states contribute, that reports on the occurrence of disease outbreaks. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has given OIE technical responsibility for ensuring free and fair international trade (in live animals and animal products) under the recent GATT agreements; the OIE is developing risk assessment techniques for this purpose.
PAHO, EC and OAU-IBAR are examples of regional intergovernmental organizations that work towards developing an effective and common approach to disease control in their geographical territories. PAHO, through the PAN AMERICAN FMD CENTRE (PAFMDC) and the INTER-AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF FOOD PROTECTION AND ZOONOSES (INPPAZ), provides technical supports to countries in the Americas. The EC develops and maintains the sanitary conditions necessary for an open market within the European Union, while IBAR manages the Pan African Rinderpest Programme amongst other activities.
The FAO of the United Nations has been actively involved in the prevention and control of livestock diseases since its inception and has an Animal Health Service dedicated to this purpose. Increasingly it is focusing attention on the resurgence of serious epidemic diseases. This development has led to establishment of the livestock component of the EMPRES programme which is initially devoted to concerted action which focuses mainly, but not exclusively, on six of the most destructive epidemic diseases; selected because they dominated requests to FAO for assistance by member countries. They are:
FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE
CONTAGIOUS BOVINE PLEUROPNEUMONIA
PESTE DES PETITS RUMINANTS
RIFT VALLEY FEVER
LUMPY SKIN DISEASE
Prior to the inception of EMPRES the arrangements were that when an epidemic of one of these diseases was reported, FAO took steps to help the national authorities in the infected territories and or to protect their neighbours, by organizing evaluation missions, securing the resources necessary for control e.g. vaccines, and supporting control programmes. These actions were generally carried out with financial support from the FAO TECHNICAL CO-OPERATION PROGRAMME (TCP) and less frequently with funds provided from other sources and arranged by FAO's OFFICE FOR SPECIAL RELIEF OPERATIONS (OSRO now renamed TCOR).
The successful operation of these control programmes depends on FAO's ability to draw on technical expertise, at short notice, from national and regional institutions and particularly from the international reference laboratories and collaborating centres which it sponsors on a continuing basis. These reference centres have been designated by FAO on the basis of their recognised excellence in regard to the diagnosis and control of certain specific animal diseases. They develop and maintain relevant diagnostic techniques, reagents and/or vaccine stocks and are capable of providing technical support in the event of a disease emergency.
4. THE LIMITATIONS OF THE TRADITIONAL ARRANGEMENTS
Despite the national and international disease control arrangements described above outbreaks of epidemic diseases of livestock have become increasingly frequent in certain regions. Food security is being threatened in many areas of subsistence agriculture. Several diseases, especially FMD, have made fresh incursions towards developed regions such as western Europe where there are dense livestock populations of highly susceptible animals. Risks increase as the international or trans-continental trade in animals and animal products, both legal or illegal, grows, and as the effectiveness of controls on this trade become less certain due to reduced support for national veterinary services.
Present arrangements often fail because they emphasize the control of disease epidemics after they have become widely disseminated rather their prevention at an earlier stage. The areas of endeavour that need to be strengthened include the following:-
EARLY WARNING/FORECASTING: the OIE disease reporting arrangements depend on national authorities accurately reporting diseases occurring in their territories. Many countries are not consistent in reporting to OIE either because they do not have the technical resources to maintain adequate surveillance and diagnostic systems or, occasionally, because they wish to delay reporting the presence of disease so as to protect their export trade. These countries become foci of disease which threaten their neighbours and trading partners.
THE PREVENTION OF TRANSBOUNDARY SPREAD: The recent international spread of epidemics illustrates how the ineffective control of animal movement within a country and ineffective border controls, exacerbated by the breakdown of public sector services in countries have led to serious epidemics. Recent epidemics of African swine fever in several African countries have been caused by lack of control over the movement of infected livestock and products, yet, this is not a problem confined to Africa. Recent epidemics of FMD in Italy, Greece, Malaysia and the Philippines were due to the illegal movement of infected animals and animal products, as were outbreaks of African swine fever in several African countries and, in Asia; rinderpest spread to Sri Lanka during a prolonged period of civil disturbances.
PROMPT AND EFFECTIVE ACTION IN THE FACE OF AN INITIAL OUTBREAK OF DISEASE: Many countries are unprepared for disease epidemics. Some simply do not have the resources, others have devoted their resources to routine duties and few have developed the management disciplines necessary for prompt and effective action to overcome a new emergency. Inevitably there is a delay before the presence of the disease is recognised and a further delay before resources are mobilised. When FAO and other international bodies are called upon to assist there is an interval before appropriate emergency assistance programmes are drafted, approved and funds are released. Even when funds are released further delays arise due to the steps required for purchase and delivery of essential material inputs, particularly vaccines. A study of 22 vaccine purchases made during 1994 and 1995 for emergency disease control, with funding from TCP, OSRO or EMPRES, reveals that TCP projects (15) required from 69 to 478 days from initial request to receipt of emergency supplies of vaccine, while EMPRES funded actions (5) required from 40–118 days. Major delays were due to slow approval of funding and delays associated with delivery of vaccine with TCP projects. With EMPRES-supported actions delays were experienced with delivery of vaccine only. A major epidemic may develop in weeks or even days and these delays seriously impede the effectiveness of control actions.
CONTINGENCY PLANNING: A number of FAO member states have prepared contingency plans for dealing with disease epidemics which ensure that the national authorities do have the necessary management structure, the legal capabilities and the resources for prompt and effective action. These countries include the USA, Australia, New Zealand and the member states of the European Union. This planning concept is being promoted in other parts of the world by FAO but it requires a change of attitude on the part of the national authorities. Early detection and immediate response to emergencies need to be recognised as integral parts of their disease control programmes.
COMPETENT NATIONAL VETERINARY SERVICES: Disease preparedness programmes and eradication campaigns are best managed by an organization that has a short but direct chain of command, well trained personnel, and immediate access to financial and other resources. Many veterinary services operate within bureaucratic structures that hinder prompt and effective action and their management structures should be reviewed so as to improve their rapid response to emergencies and also to make best use of private as well as public sector resources.
PUBLIC RELATIONS AND DISSEMINATION OF INFORMATION: The early detection and subsequent rapid reaction to epidemic disease outbreaks depends on the ability of livestock owners and local authorities to recognise and report rapidly suspected cases. Active promotion of public awareness campaigns in regard to target diseases is necessary to educate all non-technical personnel involved with livestock industries of the dangers of important epidemic diseases and the need for their detection, control and or eradication. Not only will this facilitate early detection but a fully informed industry is more likely to collaborate with and even demand the necessary control measures.
5. THE FUTURE STRATEGY OF THE LIVESTOCK DISEASES COMPONENT OF EMPRES
The limitations of the arrangements for dealing with transboundary epidemic diseases of livestock have meant that controls failed to prevent the spread of rinderpest in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, CBPP in Africa, and African Swine Fever in South America, the Caribbean, Africa and Europe. In some areas, disease eradication programmes have been outstandingly successful, notably FMD eradication in Europe and South America and rinderpest control in West and Central Africa, Ethiopia and India. However these advances remain under threat from incursions of disease from neighbouring infected areas.
The livestock disease component of the EMPRES programme seeks to emphasize the importance of preparing for, and if possible preventing, disease epidemics and ensuring prompt and effective action if they do occur.
EMPRES is confined to transboundary diseases i.e. “those that are of significant economic, trade and/or food security importance for a considerable number of countries; which can easily spread to other countries and reach epidemic proportions; and where control/management, including exclusion, requires co-operation between several countries”. The diseases for priority attention are those for which it is practical and economic to achieve control. Many other diseases are of economic and food security importance, e.g. trypanosomiasis and tick-borne diseases in cattle but these are not identified as priorities for the proactive programme because they fall outside the strict definition adopted for transboundary diseases.
EMPRES is likewise confined to emergencies and their prevention. A disease emergency is a sudden change in the distribution or incidence of a disease which if not corrected threatens transboundary herds and livestock production in one or more countries or regions.
FAO deals with animal diseases via the regular Agriculture Division programme, TCP arrangements and extra-budgetary funded field programmes. The EMPRES programme is intended to complement rather than supplement these activities. It has two major objectives. These are:
EARLY WARNING, which comprises Contingency planning, Training, and Surveillance. These are clearly normative activities i.e. a set of tasks aimed at creating a standards and procedures by which disease-free status can be achieved and measured, with broad global applicability.
EARLY REACTIONS, are essentially immediate and short-term actions in the field that may prevent the primary outbreak developing into a major epidemic and prevent the spread of the disease across national borders. EMPRES would include the provision of expert advice, diagnostic support as well as small amounts of vaccine and equipment. These actions precede the tasks of analysis and assessment that are essential preparation for operational projects requested by national governments.
The EMPRES sphere of activities relates to other FAO activities in disease control or emergency reaction as follows:
THE ANIMAL HEALTH SERVICE - This service is responsible for a wide spectrum of on-going disease control programmes and animal health related activities apart from the new EMPRES initiative. AGAH activities in these fields are supported by collaboration from the Joint FAO/IAEA Division based in Vienna, FAO reference laboratories and collaborating centres.
THE TECHNICAL CO-OPERATION PROGRAMME - This is, by its very nature, unprogrammed. It responds, with technical inputs from the Animal Health Service for animal diseases, to urgent and unforeseen demands from national governments and is essentially short term. TCP support is dependent on the receipt of an official government request; and could take over where a broad need for support is defined in the course of an EMPRES action. EMPRES early reaction is not constrained by the need for an official government request for support and fills a gap that TCP cannot presently address.
THE OFFICE FOR SPECIAL RELIEF OPERATIONS - has the mandate to respond to requests for emergency assistance in the agricultural and livestock sectors submitted by countries affected by natural or man-made calamities. Where these calamities include the possibility of livestock disease epidemics, the EMPRES Unit can identify the urgent reactions required and assist in developing the necessary follow up with funding placed at TCOR disposal.
6. STRENGTHENING THE EMPRES INITIATIVE
The livestock diseases component of EMPRES has been operational since mid 1994 and experience gained over this period suggests that the broad thrust of its initiative is correct but that it needs to be strengthened.
The capacity for early warning needs to be developed, at national and regional/subregional levels, and this requires EMPRES to work extensively with national veterinary services so as to realign their structure and their activities towards disease preparedness and rapid action. This can best be done by establishing specialist EMPRES staff (epidemiologists) in regional units where they can liaise with those countries most at risk of transboundary diseases. A veterinary epidemiologist should be posted at FAO regional units in Africa, the Near East (including north Africa and central Asia), Latin America and Asia. The epidemiologist should: -at the national level assist/advise individual nations in the development of contingency plans for the control of epidemic disease and of, their national disease surveillance, risk analysis, epidemiological and disease reporting activities; at the regional/sub regional level assist and advise neighbouring countries in the establishment of cross border mechanisms/strategies for the limitation of spread of epidemics, establish regional disease mapping and information services to serve the needs of the region; and at the international level provide inputs to the central EMPRES global information database on animal disease epidemics. In this way the EMPRES programme will become a major initiative of FAO which should strengthen the partnership between the Organization and its member countries in a concerted approach to transboundary spread of epidemic disease.
The capacity of FAO/EMPRES for early reaction and delivery of necessary expertise and materials
(vaccines, vaccination equipment, cold chain, protective clothing etc.) needs to be strengthened. This can best
be done by the establishment of contracts/agreements with an increasingly comprehensive network of
reference laboratories, collaborating centres and other research insitutions, vaccine producing laboratories,
and other equipment suppliers for the delivery of vaccines from predefined sources/banks, consultants, or
equipment and supplies to be made available at short notice.
Research is needed into new aids to immediate action through epidemiology-based problem assessment and advanced reporting systems as well as more easily applied diagnostic tests.
Central support from the FAO Animal Health Service also needs to be strengthened so that normative tasks can be taken up more quickly and the wider range of EMPRES activities properly co-ordinated. It is particularly essential to strengthen mechanisms for rapid and early intervention to prevent index outbreaks of certain diseases turning into major epidemics. In addition there is a need to strengthen EMPRES in regard to information management including: database management, epidemiological mapping, computer simulation, risk assessment etc. for an effective Global Early Warning System against epidemic diseases.
The strengthening of the EMPRES initiative now requires an extra-budgetary donor contribution through an international trust fund to complement the resource already provided through the FAO Regular Programme. Thus, a multi-donor normative project is proposed and funding is being sought. The project is divided into 4 components, each of about $3.5 million for a five year period. Component A aims at strengthening the EMPRES Headquarters in early reaction and some targeted research activity. Components B, C & D are for strengthening regional early warning.