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A Maasai livestock owner whose cattle herd has suffered from and subsequently been innoculated against rinderpest grazing his cattle in a village near Nairobi. ©FAO/Tony Karumba


FAO advocacy brings more countries and resources together to destroy and sequester rinderpest virus stocks in designated holding facilities

Stocks of rinderpest virus kept under inadequate or high risk conditions could threaten the reintroduction of the virus to the environment after the disease has been successfully eradicated in 2011. The threat can be effectively mitigated with a global intervention to destroy or safely relocate remaining samples to certified Rinderpest facilities. This was the central message at the August 2015 Regional meeting for Africa followed by the January 2016 International meeting on ‘Maintaining Global Freedom from Rinderpest’ organized and spearheaded by FAO in collaboration with World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Health (AU-IBAR). As a result of FAO’s advocacy on post-eradication program roll out, more countries around the world are putting resources in place to destroy or safely relocate remaining samples of rinderpest.


High-level meetings gather pace

Reducing the risk requires a host of activities, including advocacy to reduce the number of the stock of rinderpest in laboratories as well as resources in place to assist countries with both the destruction and the relocation of stocks of virus. FAO organized two high-level meetings, Regional meeting for Africa on 5th and 6th August, 2015 with 9 African Countries to encourage compliance followed by an International meeting on 20th to 22nd January, 2016 bringing together 18 countries.


The two consecutive meetings on ‘maintaining global freedom from rinderpest’ saw a proactive participation and renewed commitment from Member Countries to coordinate destruction and relocation of rinderpest samples. ‘FAO is pleased to witness strong pledges made by a number of countries reiterating their commitment to move ahead with destroying their Rinderpest Virus Containing Material (RVCM) and is further encouraged by the robust consensus to reduce the risk of reoccurrence of rinderpest in nature,’ said Dr Samia Metwally, FAO Rinderpest co-secretariat.


Four more countries report virus destruction or removal

The outcome of FAO’s consistent advocacy resulted in a number of countries recoding solid achievements; setting a good example for others to follow. Recently, Botswana and Sudan transferred their vaccine virus stocks to the African Union Panafrican Veterinary Vaccine Centre (AU-PANVAC), followed by Australia and Switzerland who announced their decision to destroy theirs. The positive outcomes from these four countries are primarily attributed to FAO’s efforts that brought them on-board the consultation processes and coordination platforms.


FAO is also planning missions to three African countries in the coming couple of months which are taking a proactive role destroying and/or relocating RVCM. “FAO stands ready to assist other Member Countries willing to follow the same path in terms of reaching our goals.” added Dr Samia Metwally.


FAO partners with the African Union for the initiative and plans to coordinate its programs with the continental institution with the view of sequestering RVCM from African Countries.


Where RVCMs can be safely stored.

In June 2012, a Joint Advisory Committee (JAC) was established to provide guidance to FAO and OIE on approval of facilities in which RVCM can be held as well as on planning and implementing other rinderpest related activities in the post eradication era.


The JAC established a system and guided both organizations in the process to evaluate facilities that can securely store the virus under the international biosafety and biosecurity standards. Accordingly, five FAO-OIE Rinderpest Holding Facilities located in Ethiopia, Japan, UK and the US were evaluated and waiting final official approvals.


More about rinderpest

Rinderpest is the first animal disease to be eradicated after the successful eradication of smallpox. Rinderpest virus is highly contagious and can affect various domestic bovine species as well wildlife. Mortality rates in case of rinderpest infection can reach 100 percent.