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Senior veterinary officials plan urgent action for the prevention and control of animal diseases in Eastern Africa

16 August 2010 - Chief Veterinary Officers and Heads of Central Veterinary Laboratories from 10 countries1 met in Zanzibar from 24 to 26 August 2010 to plan how to enhance the preparedness, prevention and management of animal diseases.

Representatives from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United nations (FAO), World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), African Union’s Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), OIE/FAO Reference Laboratory, l'Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie (IZSVe), the Southern Africa Centre for Infectious Diseases (SACIDS) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) also participated.

Dr Juan Lubroth, FAO Chief Veterinary Officer commented “The Ministries of Agriculture, Planning and Commerce must take heed of the outcomes of this seminal meeting, as the public veterinary services exist for the common public good. Their strengthening – in terms of human and financial resources – is indispensable in enhancing disease preparedness, prevention and control at the local level.”

Participants endorsed key recommendations adopted during previous meetings and agreed follow-up actions; recommended the strengthening of regional cooperation and collaboration, in particular with key partners AU-IBAR, OIE, EAC, Alive Secretariat, USAID and SACIDS; reaffirmed the need for countries to adopt a common reporting system – including a more complete database on animal resources and management developed at country and regional levels – based on and compatible with the international reporting system for animal diseases; and progressed with the establishment of a Regional Service Laboratory, by compiling a shortlist of locations for the laboratory (Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania) and agreeing on the criteria and procedures for selection.

Animal disease prioritization is an issue of major importance in the region. Based upon economic impact, disease prevalence, public health significance and species importance (i.e. number and distribution and the possible surveillance strategy), the meeting identified peste des petits ruminants (PPR), Rift Valley fever (RVF) foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP), Newcastle disease (ND), highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP) and rabies as the priorities for which OIE, AU-IBAR and partners would coordinate their interventions to address. Diseases were also categorized according to control action to be taken within the region: for example, PPR, FMD, CBPP and CCPP will be targeted for regional progressive control/elimination from livestock populations; and RVF, ND, African swine fever (ASF) and others will be addressed with tactical interventions when risk rises above an acceptable level.

“It was an important conversion of decision-makers, donors and key planners, but implementation will require the involvement of civil society, and small and large livestock producers“ added Dr. Lubroth.

The region is home to more than 300 million people, of whom an estimated 40 million poor people rely on the livestock sector for their livelihoods. The sector is hampered by low productivity, limited market access and inadequate policy and legal frameworks, and characterized by weak animal health and food safety systems, and limited infrastructure and capacity of veterinary services. Consequently there is a high prevalence of animal and zoonotic diseases. Recent projects conducted by ECTAD and partners in the region were largely targeted at prevention and control of HPAI, and while one of the major benefits – in addition to minimizing the impact of the disease – is the enhancement of veterinary capacity in epidemiology and surveillance, more attention must be paid to other TADs and zoonosis.

ECTAD Eastern Africa’s Regional Strategic Framework 2011 – 2015 was recognized at the meeting as vital in addressing animal disease, through enhancement of disease early warning and detection systems, identification and addressing of disease drivers, risk assessment and mitigation, enhanced understanding of livestock-wildlife interactions, capacity development of public veterinary services to prepare, prevent and respond to animal disease, increased understanding of the social and economic impact of diseases, and facilitation of a greater role for the private sector to partner the public sector involved in livestock and wildlife health.

The above approach aims to develop programmes to achieve the strategic goals of the ‘One Health’ approach and develop capacities for prevention and control of emerging infectious animal and zoonotic diseases at the animal-human-ecosystem interface. This will directly contribute to the larger FAO vision of improving public and animal health, enhancing food safety and food security, improving the livelihoods of poor smallholder farming communities, and protecting ecosystems.

 

1 Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda (and Comoros invited by AU-IBAR).

 

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