07 July 2016 - African swine fever (ASF) is considered endemic in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Nevertheless, ASF remains very dynamic with new areas being affected. The upsurge of ASF is largely human driven due to the tremendous growth of the pig sector seen in Africa, with some countries more than doubling their pig populations in less than a decade, as well as the increased movement of people and products. Eradication of ASF in Africa is very difficult with currently available tools, i.e. there is no vaccine available or compensation mechanisms in place. Therefore, prevention and control efforts should focus on improved husbandry practices and biosecurity, and protection of areas not affected by the disease.
The African Union’s Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) have jointly developed a regional strategy to control ASF in infected countries and to prevent its spread to non-infected ones. The strategy is based on collaboration and partnerships among farmers, traders, veterinary and animal production services, researchers, governments, civil society and development partners. The strategy is also translated into an action plan and a control program is being developed.
A webinar, kindly supported by the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (EuFMD), took place on 15 June with the objectives to 1) Sensitize the international community on the heaven burden of ASF in Africa; 2) Create awareness among the scientific and donor community on the strategy; 3) Gather inputs/suggestions to improve the strategy; and 4) Attract possible donors for funding the control program.
The webinar, moderated by Eran Raizman (head of EMPRES, FAO) started with an introduction by Professor Mary Louise Penrith (University of Pretoria) on ASF epidemiology and its situation in Africa, its effects on the pig sector, as well the available control options and challenges. This was followed by a Dr Hiver Boussini (AU-IBAR), who presented the main components of the strategy and action plan. Finally, Dr Edward Okoth (ILRI) explored the way forward, i.e. an evidence based integrated ASF control, stressing the important of working together with smallholders and other value chain actors. The 45-minute presentation was followed by 15 minutes of questions and answers session (which participants could type in). Questions focused on the status of development of an effective vaccine, on the next steps and timeline of implementing the strategy, on the most cost-effective tool for surveillance, and on the possibility of slaughtering pigs for consumption during ASF outbreaks (in order not to lose the value of healthy animals)
The webinar, which was followed by 41 participants, mostly from the East Africa African Swine Fever Working Group, but also from elsewhere in Africa and the world, was highly appreciated by participants. The recording of the webinar is available here.