FAO Regional Office for Africa

Healthier donkeys to bring stronger livelihoods in Africa

FAO enhances the detection and prevention of equine infectious diseases

Photo: ©FAO

19 March 2020, Vom, Nigeria – Equine species, mostly donkeys, play an essential role in farming and transporting goods and people for rural communities in Africa, and its infection to transboundary animal diseases could hamper people’s livelihoods, health, and the trade market.

To support livelihoods through healthier equine population, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) trained national laboratory specialists from Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and The Gambia to strengthen the national veterinary laboratory capacity in diagnosing equine diseases.

During the four-day training, participants received theoretical and practical trainings on serological, molecular, and culturing techniques for the detection of major equine diseases in accordance with regulatory laboratory standards. They also received training on sample collection, preservation, and shipment to the reference centers, which is in accordance with international regulations (IATA). Moreover, participants developed specific work plans for targeted laboratories to improve diagnosis skills for main equine diseases.

Mamadou Niang, the Regional Laboratory Specialist, on behalf of the FAO-ECTAD Regional Manager, expressed his optimism for the turnout and the work that was done and also urged participants to seize this opportunity to forge collaborative linkage in order to build a network for the diagnosis of equine diseases.

Tony Joannis, the Head of regional reference laboratory for infectious diseases at the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI) Vom, acknowledged FAO for the support to undertake this regional diagnosis and prevention exercise.

FAO regional efforts to improve equine health

With the sharp increase of reported mortalities in donkeys and horses from Equine Influenza (EI), African Horse Sickness (AHS), and strangles disease or combination of diseases in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal, FAO is scaling up its regional efforts to combat this deadly trend.

FAO has been developing a comprehensive disease diagnosis expert systemto overcome the lack of well-trained equine veterinarians in West and Central Africa, especially in the area of laboratory diagnosis of equine diseases. For example, FAO recently introduced a new, innovative EMA-i (Event Mobile Application) tool to mainstream the disease reporting system from field to central level and ensure the timely reporting of outbreaks including the African Horse Sickness (AHS).

By using the Laboratory Mapping Tool (LMT) and Amiqualsud tool, FAO is also carrying out assessments on countries’ diagnostic and support needs and evaluation on national laboratories’ capacities for diagnosis, quality assurance, and biosecurity.

Along with the diagnostic capacity improvement, the regional intervention also aims to raise awareness of animal owners and veterinarians on the importance of good management and hygiene practices to better control equine diseases and ultimately support the communities depending on them in Chad, Niger, Nigeria and The Gambia.

Equine contribution to livelihoods in Africa

With donkey population estimated at 13.7 million heads in sub-Saharan Africa, they are deeply involved in people’s economic activities through farming and transporting goods and people. The revenues generated by using donkeys are primarily used to access food, health care, and education for children. In urban areas, the use of equines not only provides regular employment and income for some households, but also offers an opportunity for rural people to generate additional income in the dry season by allowing them to support the family left in the village.

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