Kandy accord affirms commitment to eradication of rinderpest from Asia

A landmark meeting in Kandy, Sri Lanka, has put South and Southeast Asia on what should be the home stretch towards eradication of rinderpest, the devastating cattle plague. Senior veterinary officials from countries in the subregion met at an Expert Consultation in Kandy from 8 to 10 February 1999. The meeting was convened jointly by FAO EMPRES and the Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia (APHCA) in support of the South Asian Rinderpest Eradication Campaign (SAREC), a component of the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme (GREP). It reviewed the current rinderpest situation in Asia and noted that very significant gains had been made in recent years.

Young girl with cattle in South Bihar, India. There has been no rinderpest in the country since 1995
FAO/5417/Peyton Johnson

From a situation of widespread infection in the 1980s, there is now growing confidence that rinderpest is present for certain only in Pakistan and neighbouring districts of Afghanistan. Even taking into account the uncertain status of small areas of the Arabian Peninsula, northern Iraq and the Far East of the Russian Federation, this is evidence of notable success in the progressive control of rinderpest through GREP.

Perhaps the most remarkable of the achievements has been the success of the Indian National Programme for Rinderpest Eradication which, until last year, received support from the European Union. Despite intensive searching, no case of rinderpest has been found in India since 1995. However, the meeting also concluded that there is no room for complacency, for leaving even one focus of rinderpest behind could lead to the generation of another Asian pandemic, as seen as recently as the 1980s.

Rinderpest in Pakistan is an international emergency

The continuing persistence of rinderpest in Pakistan was identified as a matter of grave concern for the entire region, and for countries in adjoining regions. Indeed, it was concluded that it constitutes an international emergency. Immediate implementation of a Pakistan national project to control and eradicate the disease as soon as possible is vital to safeguard the significant gains made in South Asia.

The Pakistan Government has committed itself to mounting its own national rinderpest eradication programme but requires assistance to do so. It is seeking FAO and European Union support and the meeting requested the European Commission and other donors to support the Pakistan national rinderpest programme to enable its implementation without delay. The consultation agreed that addressing the issue of rinderpest persistence in Pakistan is the absolute priority animal health issue facing the countries in the region.

Countries to mobilize all resources for eradication by 2010

The experts unanimously affirmed their countries' commitment to the complete and verified eradication of rinderpest from Asia by the year 2010 and called on all Asian countries to mobilize all available human and other resources to achieve the target date.

In order to consolidate the gains made under the South Asian Campaign, there is a need to sustain the momentum and bring all countries to include specific rinderpest surveillance and emergency preparedness against the disease as a prominent function of the national veterinary service. The meeting stressed the need for a Regional SAREC Support Project to provide the required coordination and expert advice to countries of the region.

Bangladesh has not seen rinderpest since 1958, yet, other than Pakistan, it is the only country in the region still practising mass rinderpest vaccination. Being convinced of the rinderpest-free status of its neighbours should now give Bangladesh the confidence to join with Bhutan, India, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand in ceasing vaccination and adopting the OIE Pathway, leading to international verification of freedom from rinderpest.

FAO's EMPRES programme, which coordinates the GREP, sees this meeting as a landmark in intensifying the global programme. It has called on all countries in a position to do so to cease vaccination and join the OIE Pathway while strengthening emergency preparedness as protection against the risk of reinvasion by rinderpest.

3 March 1999

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