09 September 2016 - As the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) calls for more engagement of human health, animal health and other sectors in order to deliver health security using a One Health approach, there is a need to strengthen the role of agriculture. This was the key message conveyed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) during the GHSA Action Package Coordination Meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 23-25 August 2016.
Dr. James McGrane, Team Leader of the FAO Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) Indonesia, and Dr. Henk Jan Ormel, Senior Veterinary Policy Advisor at FAO Headquarters represented FAO at the meeting. At one of the meeting’s sessions, McGrane highlighted FAO’s significant contribution to the GHSA, particularly related to its advisory role as one of three international technical advisors (the others being WHO and OIE), and its involvement in GHSA Action Packages and Joint External Evaluation missions.
“We contribute to the Action Packages at the global level through Action Package Group Meetings; at the regional level through projects and programmes; and at the country level particularly through the Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases, or ECTAD, and GHSA-linked programmes implemented in-country,” said McGrane.
FAO as an organization has participated in eight GHSA Joint External Evaluation (JEE) missions, and is committed to increase its JEE involvement through regional registers of FAO experts available to undertake missions.
In relation to GHSA Action Packages, McGrane pointed out the work areas to which FAO particularly contributes, namely Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), zoonotic diseases, biosafety and biosecurity, national laboratory systems, real-time surveillance, GHSA reporting, workforce development, and emergency operations centres.
Through the 95 country representation offices, regional and sub-regional offices, and five liaison offices throughout the world, he said, “FAO, I believe, is a valued technical advisor, undertaking a strong coordination and facilitation role in the GHSA, especially at the country level.”
Through global partnerships such as the FAO-OIE (World Organization for Animal Health)-WHO (World Health Organization) tripartite mechanism, the Global Early Warning System (GLEWS), the Global Framework on Transboundary Animal Diseases (GF-TADS), FAO is in a unique position to advance the One Health approach in the prevention, detection and response to emerging infectious diseases (EID) and pandemic threats. With funding from USAID, FAO is one of the partners currently rolling out the Emerging Pandemic Threats Phase Two (EPT-2) programme in Africa and Asia. The EPT-2 programme is closely aligned with the objectives of the Global Health Security Agenda, and its activities are closely linked with GHSA Action Packages.
“One Health is central to FAO’s contribution to the GHSA from identifying drivers of disease emergence, to understanding the complex ecology of EID at wildlife/livestock/human interfaces, and through refocusingsurveillance and rethinking disease control tool boxes,” McGrane said.
In relation to food safety, FAO headquarters hosts the Codex Alimentarius or Food Code, established by FAO and the World Health Organization in 1963 to develop harmonised international food standards, which protect consumer health and promote fair practices in food trade; FAO has strong food safety programmes in many countries.
“I believe FAO provides an essential One Health link in the animal-food-environment interface, and through engagement with Ministries of Agriculture and Veterinary Services we can leverage this relationship for the good of the Global Health Security Agenda,” McGrane pointed out.
Echoing McGrane and reiterating FAO’s key message on the second day of the meeting, Henk Jan Ormel concluded, “that agriculture needs to be more involved in strategies of the Global Health Security Agenda and that GHSA needs to take account to Prevent double work, Detect funding of real activities at ground level and Respond to local needs.”
Indonesia is currently chairing the GHSA Global Steering Group. The coordination meeting, which was opened by Indonesia’s Minister of Health, gathered GHSA partners from more than 17 countries, international and regional organizations, and other stakeholders to assess the implementation progress of GHSA Action Packages. GHSA itself is an initiative to develop global capacity to prevent, detect and respond to biological threats. It serves as a platform for countries to collaborate in implementing the WHO International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005.