Considerable mutual benefits can be derived when countries cooperate in their emergency animal disease preparedness planning, particularly neighbouring countries or those within the same geographic region. Such countries often have similar socio-economic, environmental, epidemiological and agricultural production profiles and thus similar livestock disease risks, needs for and approaches to preparedness planning.
These countries may consider pooling resources in their emergency animal disease preparedness planning, either through informal networking or formally through existing regional organizations such as PANAFTOSA in Latin America, OAU/IBAR in Africa, APHCA and ASEAN in Asia, the Veterinary Committee of the EU and the EUFMD in Europe. This will ease the burden for all and, more important, result in harmonized plans for preventing and responding to animal disease emergencies. This is particularly significant in the case of transboundary animal diseases which, by definition, spread rapidly across national borders.
Potential avenues for collaboration include:
There are compelling reasons why countries should be cooperate in their control and eradication campaigns for shared epidemic livestock diseases. A regional approach with coordinated campaigns in all countries is more likely to succeed and will reduce the subsequent risk for all countries to a greater extent than if countries act alone. Future export opportunities for countries in the region will be enhanced if diseases are eradicated on a regional basis.
The role of FAO in fostering collaboration between countries
FAO is the largest specialist agency of the United Nations, dealing with all aspects of agriculture and food, including crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry. It has become the global centre for international normative policy and databases. FAO headquarters in Rome is the centre of a global network with increasingly decentralized operations and strategic policy support to member countries. The Organization has offices in 104 of its 175 member countries; there are also FAO regional offices for Africa, Asia and the Pacific, the Near East and Europe and liaison offices for North America, the United Nations, the European Union and Belgium and Japan. The majority of member countries have permanent representations based in Rome to work with the FAO Secretariat on global agricultural policy and coordination of international actions. The highest governing council of FAO is the Conference of Ministers of Agriculture of member countries, which meets biennially in Rome and during alternate years in each of the regions. The Conference determines the direction and programme of FAO's work, examines strategic issues facing world agriculture and the state of food supply and authorizes mechanisms for coordinating international actions. The pivotal role of FAO in global food and agriculture strategies and policy was reinforced in 1996 by the World Food Summit and the Rome Plan of Action.
With regard to international animal health, FAO collaborates with its sister organization WHO and has a special agreement with OIE, formally signed in 1947. The three organizations participate in the relevant working groups and commission expert consultations and panels at the secretariat level. At the strategic level, the senior animal health officials of the three organizations and the FAO/IAEA Joint Division meet annually in Rome to review their animal health programmes.
FAO enhances its international coordinating role through special programmes such as EMPRES, expert and technical consultations, expert panels, the Committee on Agriculture and various commissions. Some of the commissions are semi-autonomous, such as EUFMD which has its secretariat in the Animal Health Service in Rome, or APHCA which has its secretariat in the FAO regional office in Bangkok. The near East and African regions do not currently have semiautonomous commissions for coordinating policies and activities related to transboundary animal diseases.
FAO's response to agricultural emergencies
FAO's role in natural and human disasters is guided by the commitments set forth in the 1996 Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action. FAO assists national and international efforts to prevent, prepare for and respond to natural disaster and human emergencies. It also manages agricultural relief programmes that help affected populations towards recovery, rehabilitation, development and a capacity to satisfy future needs.
To meet the threat of disasters caused by agricultural pest and disease outbreaks, FAO may be required to provide:
Within the wider context of agricultural emergencies, FAO has developed an elaborate and tested system for rapid response to requests from member countries for assistance in animal disease emergencies. For ministries of agriculture, the first point of contact in animal disease emergencies is often the local FAO representation in the capital city.
Through its global mandate related to animal health, FAO has traditionally played a major role in the fight against epidemic livestock diseases. The Organization has a notable record of successful intervention against transboundary livestock diseases through provision of technical expertise and logistic support to countries threatened by, or combating, a disease emergency.
In order to give even greater focus to this important activity, the 106th Session of the FAO Council authorized FAO's Director-General to establish a priority programme, the Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES). This programme encompasses plant pests and diseases, notably plague locusts, as well as livestock pests and diseases.
The EMPRES livestock programme is located within the Animal Production and Health Division at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy. It is also supported through animal health officers stationed in FAO regional offices. Contact may be made directly, or through FAO country representatives or regional offices (see Appendix 4).
EMPRES has a home page on the World Wide Web at www.fao.org/waicent/faoinfo/agricult/ aga/empres/empres.htm
EMPRES has four main categories:
At present EMPRES gives priority to transboundary animal diseases of strategic importance. These diseases may be subject to global or regional eradication programmes, such as rinderpest, foot-and-mouth disease and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia. EMPRES also gives priority to diseases of tactical importance that sporadically cause serious epidemics but are not at a stage to be considered for global or regional eradication campaigns; these diseases include Rift Valley fever, lumpy skin disease, peste des petits ruminants, African swine fever and Newcastle disease. EMPRES also prioritizes emerging diseases, such as BSE.
EMPRES has a regular publication: The EMPRES transboundary animal diseases bulletin. This may be obtained either by contacting FAO EMPRES or by accessing the EMPRES Web site.
FAO and the global rinderpest eradication programme (GREP)
Rinderpest is regarded as the original cattle plague. Over the centuries, it has caused the deaths of millions of cattle and buffaloes and untold numbers of wild animals in Asia, Europe, the Near East and Africa. It still threatens food security in a number of countries.
There is now strong international pressure for global eradication of the disease. A target has been set for the year 2010 and a technical blueprint has been devised to make this possible. The technical coordination of GREP is being undertaken by FAO within its EMPRES programme.
The GREP strategy is an excellent example of putting the principles in this manual into practice. It recommends that countries carry out comprehensive targeted vaccination programmes, supported by active disease surveillance. Heat-stable vaccines are available for areas where maintenance of cold chains may be a problem. When the clinical disease disappears, vaccination is progressively replaced by measures to prevent reintroduction of infection into apparently free areas, active clinical and serological surveillance programmes and actions to detect and respond quickly to disease breakdowns.
Central to this strategy are the OIE standards for epidemiological surveillance systems, the OIE pathways, which set out the steps to be followed in order to declare provisional freedom from rinderpest, provide evidence of freedom including random clinical and serological surveys and receive assessment by OIE as being free of infection. This process may be completed four to five years after the cessation of vaccination.
Joint FAO/IAEA Division
The animal production and health section of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division supports the introduction and utilization of nuclear and nuclear-related technologies by veterinary diagnostic laboratories in developing countries. Focusing principally on ELISA, the approach has been to assist FAO and IAEA member countries in using this technology to identify the major infectious diseases affecting their livestock, to determine prevalence as part of developing control and eradication strategies and then to use the same technology to monitor the effectiveness of interventions.
The support provided through the Joint FAO/ IAEA Division to veterinary laboratories for control and eradication programmes is usually part of a greater effort involving the national veterinary service, with support from other international organizations and outside donors. Given the nature of transboundary diseases, this national effort is linked to similar efforts in surrounding countries and within a region. There is a need to work together with a common policy and strategy through international coordination in order to compare results of diagnosis and surveillance from country to country with confidence. This has given rise to the FAO/IAEA laboratory networks for rinderpest, CBPP, FMD and, most recently, Newcastle disease vaccination. Efforts are coordinated not just within the network but with national and regional disease control and eradication programmes. Such networks are focused on one disease and linked to a larger control/eradication effort.