06 May 2014 - Due to recent outbreaks of Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) in China, neighbouring countries are at increased risk of incursions of this virulent animal disease which affects small ruminants, both wild and domestic. One of the countries at risk is Mongolia, which shares its longest border with China, at 4 677 km. To date, PPR has never been diagnosed in Mongolia.
The Mongolian economy relies heavily on agriculture and livestock. The spread of PPR into Mongolia would impact significantly on the food security of the nation and the livelihoods of a large number of small ruminant and livestock keepers. With the increased circulation of PPR in China, the Government of Mongolia requested the assistance of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) to assess the preparedness of the country in the event of such an incursion.
On 21 April 2014, FAO's Crisis Management Centre for Animal Health (CMC-AH) fielded a rapid deployment team of four experts to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in order to identify the risk factors of the disease spreading into Mongolia and neighbouring countries. The team also aimed to: i) provide recommendations for recognition and reporting of the disease if needed; ii) provide advice on PPR control, in particular in relation to surveillance, monitoring and vaccination measures; and iii) assess the short- and medium-term training needs of the national Veterinary Services in order to ensure an effective prevention and control programme for PPR.
Led by Eran Raizman, Senior Animal Health Officer and Head of the Emergency Prevention System for Animal Health (EMPRES-AH) at FAO, the team met with the Mongolian Chief Veterinary Officer and government veterinarians on a visit to the State Central Veterinary Laboratory. In preparation for their trip to the south-eastern part of the country and the border with China, they met with the Border Inspection Department and General Agency of Specialised Inspection. Although two sets of fences separate Mongolia from China and are regularly patrolled, concerns were raised regarding a significant population of nomadic gazelles as well as informal movements of livestock across the border.
While Mongolia has a solid animal health infrastructure and the Government invests heavily in animal health providing laboratories with diagnostic kits and vaccines, there is a need for additional support in training and to improve disease surveillance due to the increased threat of transboundary animal diseases like PPR. In this respect, FAO recommended that the Government of Mongolia implement a series of activities, including: i) improving syndromic surveillance for small ruminant respiratory and enteric diseases; ii) training and awareness-raising activities; iii) enhancing laboratory capacity and sample submission; iv) ensuring timely access to PPR vaccine; v) developing a contingency plan in the event of an incursion of PPR; vi) reviewing animal health conditions for the importation of small ruminants; vii) completing a draft on animal health legislation and supporting its introduction to parliament; and viii) enhancing small ruminant health through Mongolia's partnership in the regional initiative to improve transboundary animal disease surveillance.
Demonstrating a continued committment towards its animal health system, the Government of Mongolia aims to establish a reliable response system in the event of an incursion of PPR according to the FAO assessment of its preparedness levels. By improving early warning and prevention of transboundary animal diseases like PPR, Mongolia will increase its capacity to support the resilience of its livestock communities.