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Improving joint risk assessment skills at the human-animal-ecosystem interface in Africa

FAO, WHO, and OIE continue their successful partnership in taking a One Health approach to address the challenges to public, animal, and environmental health in Africa.

Strengthening Joint FAO/OIE/WHO Cooperation In the Management of Avian Influenza and other Zoonotic, Photo: © FAO

7 May 2018, Dakar – Health challenges at the human-animal-environment interface, such as zoonotic diseases (for example, avian influenza, rabies, Ebola, and Rift Valley fever) as well as food-borne diseases and antimicrobial resistance, continue to have major impacts on health, livelihoods, and economies. The tripartite collaboration between the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO) and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) reflects the multidisciplinary and multisectoral collaboration, through a One Health approach- involving human, animal, and environmental health- required to effectively prepare, detect, assess, and respond to emerging and endemic zoonotic diseases.

The first step to decreasing zoonotic disease threats is understanding where and why risks exist. This understanding can be built through national level joint risk assessments, which bring together information on humans, animals, and the environment so that it can be assessed jointly by the national animal health and public health sectors, and other relevant sectors.

To address these zoonose threats, the Tripartite (FAO-OIE-WHO) are working together at the human–animal–environment interface to include developing global strategies and standard tools to ensure a consistent, harmonised approach throughout the world. One of such standard tools is the Joint Operational Tool to conduct joint risk assessment (JRA).

From 7 to 9 May 2019, 25 participants gathered in Dakar, Senegal, in a Facilitator’s Training on the Joint Risk Assessment (JRA) Operational Tool. Regional epidemiologists, and other technical level representatives from WHO, OIE and FAO headquarters, regional, and country level offices came together to be trained on the use of the JRA tool and on how to run pilot workshops throughout the region.

Joint Risk Assessment Tool
Understanding on zoonotic disease risks can be built through national level risk assessments. To adequately assess risk from zoonotic diseases, a variety of pathogen and epidemiologic information on humans and animals must be considered, (e.g. specific diseased population and exposure probability resulting in disease transmission across species). Such zoonoses-specific information can then be shared and assessed jointly by the national animal health and public health sectors, and other stakeholders. However, to proceed efficiently the sectors must agree on a standard approach and process and be guided by best practices. Historically, animal health and human health sectors have had different objectives in conducting risk assessments, different approaches, processes and definitions have evolved in each sector. But through the successful Tripartite cooperation, the Joint Risk Assessment tool represents a compromise between the approaches, processes, and terminology generally used for risk assessment by the animal health and public health sectors.

The JRA approach was first piloted in Indonesia in March 2018, based on zoonotic influenza and other national priority zoonotic diseases (rabies and leptospirosis). To facilitate the rolling out the tool widely, Dakar held the first Africa regional facilitator training on the use of the JRA tool.

In implementing a multisectoral, One Health approach, the Tripartite recognizes that we do not yet always know the best way to build structures and systems to address zoonotic diseases in every situation, given the wide scope of countries and contexts. In order to make these structures and systems more sustainable and effective, the training of trainers on the JRA will help African countries to implement activities in a manner that fits their needs, the national context, and the requirements interested or affected parties from all relevant sectors.

During the opening ceremony, Ousseynou Diop, Assistant Consultant to the FAO Representative in Senegal, stated that “the Joint Risk Assessment marks a change of mindset in the fight against zoonotic priority diseases towards a more inclusive approach to the challenges to public health, animal health (both domestic and wildlife), and the environment facing the world today.

In his remarks, the technical advisor to the Minister of Livestock, Fisheries and Animal Production, Papa Serigne Seck, said that “this tripartite workshop will certainly facilitate and reinforce the work of the national One Health Platform, created in 2015”.

After the training, participants will be part of a pool of facilitators in Africa regional or country offices of the three organizations that can be called upon to support piloting and/or implementation of the JRA tool in countries of the Africa region.

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