01 August 2014 - With the increased frequency of Rift Valley fever (RVF) outbreaks in West Africa since 2010, there is a growing concern among the national authorities of the affected countries that are struggling to put the disease under control again. In the meantime, the research community, which counts a large number of institutions working on RVF in the region, continues to work on better understanding the disease cycle and developing tools to improve forecasting, prevention and the progressive control of the disease. Due to the zoonotic nature of RVF and the existence of wildlife reservoirs, public health agencies and wildlife management services are also involved. This multiplicity of actors makes it difficult for institutions to know what everyone is working on and can result in overlaps and a lack of collaboration.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded a meeting in Dakar, Senegal from 22 to 24 July 2014: the “Rift Valley Fever Progressive Control Stakeholders Coordination Meeting”. The event brought together all the major stakeholders engaged in the research and management of RVF. The meeting was a significant step towards creating a coordinated platform on RVF in West Africa. Participants included representatives from i) the national authorities in charge of veterinary, livestock and public health services and veterinary laboratories from Gambia, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal; ii) research institutes, i.e. the Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD), the Centre du Suivi Écologique (CSE) in Senegal, the Institut Pasteur Dakar, the Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles (ISRA), and the Centre National d’Elevage et de Recherches Vétérinaires (CNERV) in Mauritania; iii) regional and international institutions, i.e. FAO, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the African Union Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), the African Union Panafrican Veterinary Vaccine Centre (AU-PANVAC); and iv) the Humanitarian Assistance Services of the United States Embassies of Mauritania and Senegal.
Participants had the opportunity to review the current epidemiological situation in the region and to present their latest findings and achievements reached to date. More specifically, issues related to surveillance strategies, RVF vaccination and forecasting tools were discussed in depth. In addition, the Vmerge project, a research consortium on RVF and other vector-borne diseases, was presented. The main achievement of the meeting was to gather all the major stakeholders with their different backgrounds (veterinary sciences, public health, biology, entomology and wildlife management) and roles (national authorities, research institutions, international organizations and donors) to realize the need for all to better communicate and collaborate on RVF forecasting, prevention, detection and control. This laid the basis for a regional partnership that should meet regularly for the progressive control of the disease in West Africa. Fruitful discussions held within working groups helped to further define the constitutive elements of such a partnership.
The synergies created by this network will allow countries to improve their understanding of RVF dynamics in the region, to identify gaps and define new research priorities, to timely share information and learn from each other's experiences, but most importantly, to develop coordinated national approaches and joint regional strategies to better control the disease in West Africa.