World Veterinary Year 2011:
FAO, Veterinarians and Food Security
This year marks the 250th anniversary of veterinary education and profession. To veterinary professionals worldwide these 12 months are full of pride and meaning as they remind global audiences of their contributions to societies and the upkeep of animal health.
But veterinary professionals are involved in much more than treating diseases and injuries in domestic and farm animals. Over the years veterinary professionals have been playing significant and contributory roles in animal and human health and welfare, food quality, food safety and food security, ecology, ethology, epidemiology, physiology and psychology, development of drugs and pharmaceuticals, biomedical research, as educators and trainers, in wildlife conservation, and the protection of the environment and biodiversity.
As of December 2010, there are 156 veterinarians working for FAO. Of these, there are 14 in North Africa and the Middle East, 56 in Europe, 9 in Central Asia, 30 in East Asia and the Pacific, 11 in Latin America, and 36 in sub-Saharan Africa. It is evident that the work of FAO veterinary professionals reaches all corners of the world.
Veterinarians working for FAO deal with infectious and parasitic diseases in domestic animals and wildlife, as well as with veterinary public health. Some are involved in health crisis management, others in epidemiological surveillance, early warning and prevention systems, diagnostic laboratories and networks, socio-economic impacts and livelihood studies, policy analysis, environmental assessments, elucidation of livestock production systems and landscapes supporting disease spread and persistence, animal nutrition and feedstuffs, animal genetic resources management, and pathogen tracking and disease intelligence. In short, veterinarians are multifunctional professionals helping societies and its animals to stay healthy and productive.
This can be demonstrated through the multidimensional benefits of eradicating Rinderpest from the face of the earth; an achievement of FAO and partners under the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme (GREP). Also, FAO veterinarians played preponderant roles in the fight against H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N1 HPAI) ever since it surfaced in Southeast Asia back in late 2003; and it is now an ongoing effort in a small number of countries.
In addition to these diseases, the Animal Production and Health Division (AGA) is also active in addressing African swine fever, Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia, Foot-and-Mouth Disease, Rift Valley Fever, Rabies, and African Trypanosomiasis, among others.
In sum, AGA—through its activities—assists ministries of agriculture, animal health agencies and veterinary units of member countries to improve the services delivered to a variety of livestock production systems. These animal health services help maintain healthy and productive animals that make important contributions to food production, income generation, job creation, economic growth, and poverty alleviation.