25 March 2016 - The first national work planning meeting for Jordan of the FAO component of the EPT-2, a programme funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was convened in Jawa/Amman on 20 March. The primary objectives, of the programme are to prevent, detect and respond to infectious diseases that have an adverse impact on health sectors (both human and animal), such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome caused by Corona virus (MERS-CoV) and avian influenza.
Following a technical consultation meeting on MERS Coronavirus in Rome in 21 and 22 January 2016, and the FAO regional programme launched for Near East in Cairo on 31 January 2016, this meeting was the second in a series of country-level engagements in which specific activities were planned and outlined for the period March to September 2016. In Jordan, FAO’s component of EPT-2 addresses MERS-CoV in domestic animal populations through specific disease surveillance and detection activities as well as through strengthening laboratory diagnostic capacities, and better understanding of farming systems and camel value chain. The new FAO activities, to be implemented until 2019, aims at building and strengthening basic capacity in animal health to detect early and rapidly respond to emerging disease crises threatening animal or human health. Implementation will be aligned with the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), an important global initiative led by over 50 countries (including the U.S. Government).
Participants at the one-day meeting contributed to the preparation of workplans to be conducted in Jordan related to surveillance in domestic livestock, value chain and production systems characterization, laboratory support, human behavioural studies, risk assessment, and risk mitigation interventions. Building on technical cooperation programme on surveillance of transboundary animal diseases in Jordan’s livestock, and national platforms such as the Central Veterinary Laboratory in Jordan, MERS-CoV surveillance capacity in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST), FAO is able to operate within and strengthen existing infrastructure by mapping livestock production and agro-ecological systems and undertaking sero-surveillance of TADs, and building laboratory capacity. In this work, FAO will also work closely with PREDICT-2, another USAID funded partner under the EPT-2 Programme, to ensure a one health approach to surveillance at the interface between domestic animals and wildlife.
Monther Al-Refai, Assistant to the Undersecretary, Ministry of Agriculture of Jordan, explained: “Our country is the first in 2012 to report MERS-CoV in human patients in the region. Jordan has a history of working with national and international partners in addressing zoonosis. We welcome FAO’s work in strengthening this capacity, and the Department of Veterinary Services fully supports the implementation of this programme as it contributes to the good health of Jordanians and their livestock”. Jordan has about 11 000 camels most of which are identified by ear tags. Pilot sera testing of 11 camels for MERS-CoV neutralising antibodies undertaken in 2013 revealed that all camels were positive. This body of knowledge means that the planned activities will expand the surveys and will center primarily on gaining a more detailed understanding of the transmission dynamics of MERS-CoV in camels and other livestock populations.
The meeting was attended by members of the Department of Veterinary Services, the Department of Animal Production, EPT-2 partners (Jordan University of Science and Technology and Ministry of Health). Also in attendance were FAO staff from the country office, Regional Office for the Near East and North Africa, and Headquarters. The presence of participants from academia, public and animal health sectors from these organizations was pivotal to the success of this meeting. Central to the planning process was identifying collaborating partners for each activity – this ensured that a participatory approach is built into the programme at every step. Ehab Abubasha, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at JUST, said “We are pleased to be involved in the planning and implementation of FAO’s activities in Jordan under the EPT-2 program. Cooperation is key to the success of an important programme like this one, and JUST can provide technical expertise to many of the EPT-2 activities”.
Nasredin HagElamin, FAO Representative in Jordan, said “This meeting heralds the beginning of the establishment of country ECTAD in Jordan to address emerging infectious diseases in the country and beyond”.
Markos Tibbo, FAO Regional Livestock Officer, said “The success of this meeting could not have been achieved without the active participation of everyone involved, from the county level to headquarters, and from public health, and livestock sectors. These diseases emerge at the animal-human interface, and to understand them, we must apply a One Health approach”.