26 February 2019 - In the summer of 2017, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) launched the Surveillance Evaluation Tool (SET) to support countries with the development of efficient animal disease surveillance systems. SET was adapted from the Oasis tool by the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) and implemented with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), under the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA).
To date, 13 countries in East, Central and West Africa used SET to identify strengths and weaknesses of their national animal disease surveillance systems. Following each mission, action plans for improvement of these systems were developed with specific recommendations organized in short-, medium- and long-term periods over the course of several years following the evaluation.
An essential aspect of the SET methodology is following countries’ progress to ensure that recommendations are implemented, and a tracking system was developed to this effect. Each SET action plan results in major recommendations divided into several deliverables. Information is gathered from FAO country teams on activities related to each deliverable, which are then labelled as follows:
- Pending – no activities done or planned yet
- Planned – activities planned for the next year
- Ongoing – activities have started to meet the deliverable
- Complete – deliverable has been met
Two pilot SET missions were conducted in Tanzania and Liberia in June and September 2017, respectively. Although action plans developed aim to be completed within several years from the evaluation, significant progress can already be seen in both countries.
Successes were highlighted in both national animal health systems, and SET identified additional opportunities which FAO, the National Veterinary Services and other partners can capitalise on to strengthen/improve the quality of animal disease surveillance in both countries (Tables 1 and 2).
Tanzania (evaluated 12-21 June 2017)
Major strengths and opportunities for improvement were highlighted during the mission (Table 1), and a detailed report was provided to the veterinary services.
Table 1. Major strengths and opportunities from SET evaluation in Tanzania (12-21 June 2017)
Strong central laboratory with good analytical capacities
Epidemiology workforce with appropriate qualifications and
formalised terms of reference
Enhance access to frequent risk assessment trainings for
Formalise data management
The evaluation team generated several deliverables (57) that can be grouped into ten major recommendations. Already one and a half year later, over half of the deliverables have either been completed or activities are ongoing towards their completion. Major milestones contributing to this progress are listed in Figure 1. Lastly, several activities are planned for the year 2019 that will further add to the completion of the SET action plan.
Figure 1. Major ongoing/completed activities contributing to the completion of the SET action plan in Tanzania (click to enlarge)
Liberia (4-13 September 2017)
The toolkit and assessment methodology were updated following the first pilot mission and SET was once more tested in a different context in Liberia.
Table 2. Major strengths and opportunities from SET evaluation in Liberia (3-13 September 2017)
Existence of a formalized
structure at central and
Officers trained in disease
recognition by external partners
Several external evaluations
conducted in Liberia leading
to implementation of
(e.g. laboratory renovation)
Operationalise the field
component of the system
for better data collection
Develop and standardise
surveillance plans and reporting tools for priority diseases
Enhance quarantine capacity
for imported livestock
Nine overall recommendations were identified to enhance animal disease surveillance in the country, with a total of 23 deliverables. Details of the evaluation mission, assessment findings and action plan were compiled in a report reviewed by the Liberian veterinary services and made available online.
As of December 2018, major capacity-building efforts have been ongoing in Liberia to improve the national animal disease surveillance system, based on SET recommendations made (Fig. 2.).
Figure 2. Major ongoing/completed activities contributing to the completion of the SET action plan in Liberia
The future of SET – a continuing engagement with countries
Action plans from SET missions have played a large role in guiding surveillance capacity-building efforts in both Tanzania and Liberia. In fact, only major milestones were listed in this article for simplicity’s sake and more work reinforcing animal disease surveillance is being implemented by FAO and their partners in each country.
Similar data from other countries having used SET is being gathered to continue monitoring post-evaluation progress and more updates will be published in the future. In addition, SET reports are posted online on the project’s webpage once reviewed by the national veterinary services.
However challenges remain when improving veterinary surveillance, and changes in projects availability or shifting national priorities may affect implementation of SET action plans. To address this, the SET team plans to meet with decision-makers and partners of surveillance in each country regularly to:
- Review the progress done towards completing the action plan
- Adapt the action plan based on current national priorities or funding environment
- Develop a multifaceted approach to capacity-building with all national partners of surveillance
Lastly, comparative evaluations using SET every three to five years will contribute to more detailed information on the progress done by countries.
FAO remains committed to improving surveillance capacities in countries where animal disease can have major health and economic impacts on communities, and the organisation is grateful to national and international partners that provide invaluable support towards this goal.