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Supporting the Global Health Security Agenda to address Africa’s Zoonotic Diseases and Animal Health

22 May 2017 - Surveillance of viruses that spread from animals to human beings also known as zoonotic illnesses is a crucial aspect addressing emerging pandemic threats.  Kenya is one of the countries implementing the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) component of the Emerging Pandemic Threats program (EPT-2). Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the program aims to build and strengthen basic capacity in animal health for early detection and rapid response to emerging diseases threatening animal and human health using a multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral approach, also referred to as One Health Approach.

The initial focus was to conduct surveillance of filo viruses (belonging to the Filoviridae family) which include Ebola in livestock to assess the potential role of animals as hosts as well as drivers that influence their emergence, spill-over, spread and persistence. This was aimed at improving early detection and timely application of appropriate policies and practices for risk reduction.

In December 2016, the focus of the program was reoriented to focus on strengthening the country’s capacity to address endemic priority zoonotic diseases such as Brucellosis, Anthrax and Rabies. This was driven by the global need to align all activities to the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) and Joint External Evaluation (JEE). The latter is a collaborative process to assess a country’s capacity under the International Health Regulations (2005) to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to public health threats whether occurring naturally or due to deliberate or accidental events. These two processes measure a country’s individual status and progress in building the necessary capacities in accordance with the agreed targets and in support of full implementation of the International Health Regulations.

A consultative stakeholder’s workshop was held in Nairobi to sensitize EPT-2 stakeholders on the re-alignment of the FAO component of the (EPT-2) Program to GHSA and JEE. The workshop was jointly organized by the FAO Kenya’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases unit and Kenya’s Directorate of Veterinary Services of the State Department of Livestock, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.

Forty participants attended the workshop including representatives from the Ministry of Health, USAID PREDICT 2 , Preparedness and Response, One Health Workforce (OHW), the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kenya (CDC), the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Washington State University (WSU), the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and the Zoonotic Disease Unit (ZDU).

The representative of the Director of Veterinary Services Dr. Harry Oyas officially opened the workshop and underscored the role of surveillance in prevention and control of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases including zoonoses. He expressed the Directorate’s gratitude for the continued support from FAO and other partners who have enhanced surveillance and disease control efforts in livestock. He also highlighted the importance of embracing a One Health Approach to ensure better prevention and control of zoonoses in the country.

The one day workshop was an interactive participatory forum conducted through short presentations, group work and plenary discussions.

FAO Kenya’s ECTAD team leader Fasina Folorunso sensitized the participants on the reorientation, the new scope and work plan of the FAO component titled “Supporting the Global Health Security Agenda to address Zoonotic Disease and Animal Health in Africa” which aims at strengthening the surveillance system and the workforce. Participants provided input in the four GHSA technical areas namely: Biosafety and Biosecurity, Zoonotic Diseases, National Laboratory Systems and Workforce Development. The meeting concluded with a consensus agreement that all stakeholders need to collaborate and work together in the implementation of the project in Kenya.


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