27 October 2014 - Peste des petits ruminants disease affects sheep and goats in over 70 countries.
A new FAO programme plans to eradicate peste des petits ruminants (PPR), a deadly viral disease of sheep and goats that affects the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of extremely poor smallholders and pastoralists in over 70 countries.
The eradication campaign is based on the successful FAO-led campaign that eradicated rinderpest, also known as cattle plague. The new PPR campaign will concentrate on Asia, the Middle East and Africa, where the disease is endemic and spreading and already causes billions of dollars in losses every year.
FAO, in collaboration with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), will lead and coordinate efforts by governments, regional political blocks, research institutions, funding partners and foundations and livestock owners to eradicate PPR by 2030.
“The technical tools are available to eradicate this disease over a 15 year period,” said Juan Lubroth, FAO Chief Veterinary Officer. “The major challenges will be to galvanize the political will in countries to commit the necessary human and financial resources. There are technical challenges as well in regard to vaccination delivery programmes, for example, to remote areas.”
PPR is a viral disease characterized by high fever, depression, eye and nasal discharge, severe diarrhoea, respiratory insufficiency, pneumonia, emaciation and death within days. Mortality rates among sheep and goats, which are classified as small ruminants, can reach 90 percent. The name means small ruminant plague in French.
In Pakistan, for example, PPR causes annual losses of more than US$342 million as well as depletion of genetic stock. In the United Republic of Tanzania, the cumulative annual loss due to PPR is estimated to be around US$67.9 million.
Small ruminants and the poor
In developing countries, about 25 percent of rural households and 30 percent of poor households keep either sheep or goats. They are ideal livestock for the poor as they are less expensive than cattle and have a high reproduction rate. Women are more often than men the primary care giver of sheep and goats, making small ruminants an important resource for the promotion of gender equality.
Sheep and goats do not need expensive capital investments such as barns, and they can adapt to harsher environments when compared with other species. They supply high quality animal products for consumption as well as fibre, wool and leather.
Livestock production and marketing play a critical role in the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of the world’s most vulnerable people.
In subhumid and humid areas, the sale of live small ruminants and their milk accounts for up to 30 and 80 percent of household income, respectively. In arid and semi-arid areas, the proportion ranges between 17 and 58 percent. This percentage is higher in the drought prone regions where goats can easily adapt, conceive and continue to produce milk at the very early stages of drought recovery.
According to FAO, there are about 2 billion small ruminants in the world.
The global campaign to eradicate PPR is planned for official launch in March 2015.