The Somali ecosystem (SES), an area that extends across parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and all of Somalia and Djibouti and corresponds to a region occupied by the Somali cattle herding community and contiguous areas into which their livestock move for pasture or trade purposes. The area is about 920,000 sq. km.
The SES has a cattle population estimated to slightly exceed seven million (Ethiopia- 2,542,619, Kenya- 1,775,763, and Somalia- 2,724,854). The livestock sector is a major contributor to the economies of the three countries in terms of livelihoods, employment and income generation. The largest numbers of pastoralists and agro-pastoralists and the largest concentration of livestock in Africa are in these three countries.
From the perspective of rinderpest eradication efforts, this ecosystem was thought to be where the last possible foci of rinderpest in the world could be found. Despite the presumed persistence of infection, the rinderpest virus associated with mild disease in cattle in the ecosystem was last confirmed over 10 years before the global eradication of rinderpest was declared.
In wildlife, the virus was last confirmed to be present in September 2001 in buffalo in Meru National Park of Kenya. At that time, no link was established between the rinderpest infection in wildlife and disease in cattle. In a 'mild rinderpest-compatible' disease event in 2003, where viral RNA had been detected in cattle, genetic characterisation confirmed Kabete 'O' (vaccine strain) as opposed to field African lineage 2 virus.
Further, surveillance data collected after 2004 negated the presence of circulating rinderpest virus in the ecosystem.
The re-enforcement and sustenance of harmonized and coordinated surveillance at ecosystem level for the purpose of accreditation of rinderpest freedom contributed to the attainment of the global GREP goal.
In the future, strengthened national veterinary services with coordinated surveillance and emergency preparedness programmes will reduce the risk of resurgence of rinderpest and enhance rapid identification and response to control other transboundary and locally endemic animal diseases of significant economic impact.