20 January 2014 - The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an economic and geopolitical union of eight member nations (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka). Its animal health Regional Support Unit (RSU) was established under the FAO “Regional cooperation programme on highly pathogenic and emerging diseases (HPED) in South Asia”. The RSU is mandated: i) to facilitate the coordination mechanism, ii) to harmonize disease control approaches in the SAARC countries and iii) to monitor the progress of the implementation of activities.
SAARC countries represent 40,5% of the global small ruminant population. Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) is one of the priority diseases of the SAARC region. Except for Sri Lanka, all SAARC countries are affected. Considering the impact of PPR in livelihoods, the RSU organized the first Regional PPR Workshop in December 2011 (Kathmandu, Nepal) to develop the progressive control roadmap for SAARC countries. During the first Regional PPR workshop, the SAARC countries discussed and agreed on the following: i) the 2011-2020 roadmap to control and contain PPR in the region and ii) the need to strengthen the regional cooperation mechanism across borders.
In order to review the progress made so far, and challenges to implement the agreed PPR roadmap 2011-2020, the second regional workshop was organized on 19-20 December 2013 in Kathmandu, Nepal, jointly organized by the SAARC Secretariat, the government of Nepal and the FAO.
The second Regional workshop was attended by 27 senior officials from animal health services of member countries associated with policy development, and development and implementation of animal disease prevention and control activities. The workshop was facilitated by officers from FAO HQ and RSU. The presentations during the sessions addressed several issues regarding the PPR regional road map, global strategy, pilot studies in the regions, as well as the new PPR eradication initiative. The participants were divided in working groups and the following are the outcomes of their discussions:
- In the framework of the FAO strategic objectives and Global eradication of PPR (GEP) initiative, FAO and partners are to continue to support the countries (and seek donor support) in the region, to move forward to adopt and implement the road map by providing specialized expertise to some countries of the region to prepare their national PPR control programmes, along with other support, as needed.
- Due to the variety of contexts and PPR status within the member states, there is a need to consider different approaches according to the epidemiological situations which prevail in countries which are: free from the disease; free, but at high risk, or endemic. Animal movement across borders and within countries should be mapped to design the national risk-based strategic control plan and develop regional value chain analyses.
- Countries are to implement and regularly update the national roadmap, with an annual assessment to identify indicators of progress toward PPR eradication by 2020.
- Support is to be given to improve trained manpower in laboratory diagnosis, vaccine quality control, epidemiology and risk analysis, as well as, communication.
- The interactions between laboratory and epidemiology networks are to be strengthened to encourage exchange of expertise and information sharing.
- The technical expertise available in the region is to be utilized across the SAARC member countries and a socio-economic impact analysis is to be undertaken and specialized expertise be provided where and when appropriate.
- Availability of quality controlled vaccines, complying with the OIE standards, must be ensured (including establishment of a regional PPR vaccine bank). Post-vaccination protocols are to be developed and implemented for monitoring at the country and regional levels.
- Countries are to be encouraged to nominate a PPR focal point and to create an “immune belt,” through vaccination, along their international land borders.
- Countries are to be encouraged to submit samples for characterization at the SAARC regional laboratory for PPR.
- The coordination mechanism is to be strengthened through the RSU and the Global PPR initiative Secretariat at FAO HQ.