10 March 2014 - One of the activities the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) promotes is to work in close collaboration with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) around the world to sustain local communities on a practical level. As part of this development philosophy, FAO's Emergency Prevention System for Animal Health (EMPRES-AH) aims to encourage information-sharing with the Canadian NGO Veterinarians Without Borders (VWB).
Based on a similar concept to the NGO Doctors Without Borders, VWB was founded in 2005 in Ottawa, Canada, and has since vastly expanded. VWB is committed to promoting "healthy relationships between humans, animals and the environment [by] working collectively, across disciplines and across communities". VWB partakes in global health leadership and has wide-reaching institutional networks and sources of support. Championing an EcoHealth approach, VWB founders maintain that "the health of animals, people and the environment are inextricably tied." With animal health as a major pillar in the economic and social development of all countries and societies, the exchange of knowledge amongst organizations like FAO and VWB are paramount to building countries' capacity in the field.
In a bid to explore new and fruitful partnerships, EMPRES-AH and VWB are seeking to share expertise and knowledge in order to improve the detection, prevention and control of global animal disease outbreaks. On 19 February 2014, EMPRES -AH hosted a meeting entitled "Exploring New Horizons" during which VWB presented the scope of their projects and their overall aim to "foster the health of animals, people and the environment that sustains us". Among the many projects VWB is implementing, from training animal health workers to livestock clinics, particular attention was drawn to a humane and sustainable rabies prevention programme they have established in Guatemala as well as the promotion of mobile learning.
By introducing a new mobile training application, VWB are able to make a difference to animal health services in "remote, underserviced areas". The smartphone-based app helps train primary animal health workers through text, photographs and videos related to the production of livestock, healthcare and diseases. The FAO Animal Health Service also launched a similar smartphone app pilot project to track and report animal disease outbreaks in Uganda with successful results.
By maintaining communication channels open between FAO and VWB, development work is strengthened across institutions allowing for a more immediate impact at farm-level and the improvement of food security through public and animal health capacity building. Emerging global veterinary public health risks compounded with pressures on livestock production require now more than ever, a need for "safe" livestock production while conserving the natural resource base. As a consequence, development work needs to be increasingly open to institutional partnerships and information-sharing in order to ensure improved livelihoods and food security to communities around the world.