Rinderpest - Spotlight on Sri Lanka

W. Pathmasiri Walpola has a dairy business in Sri Lanka. Healthy animals are fundamental to his livelihood. “I have built the house and I’m educating my children with the income from this dairy farm,” Walpola says. Walpola’s livestock was tested for rinderpest, or cattle plague, as Sri Lanka sought to eradicate the disease. Rinderpest can wipe out entire herds of cows, buffalos and other hoofed animals within days. Rinderpest does not infect humans, but for millennia, it has triggered economic devastation and famine among people who depend on cattle. Dr. Ranjani Hettiarachchi, Sri Lanka Department of Animal Production and Health, leads a seminar for other veterinarians on rinderpest control. Concerns about rinderpest led to the establishment of the first veterinary services, in what was then Ceylon, says Hettiarachchi. FAO’s Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme (GREP) has worked with governments and their partners to eliminate rinderpest from individual countries, paving the way for a declaration of global eradication in 2011. Global eradication of rinderpest would make it the first animal disease to be eliminated thanks to human efforts, and only the second disease ever, after smallpox. With support from the European Union and other donors, FAO has provided technical and organizational expertise, and funding, to countries seeking rinderpest-free certification from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Rinderpest eradication activities have included vaccination, field testing of animals, laboratory analysis, training, and raising of public awareness. Dr A.D. Nimal Chandrasiri, Department of Animal Production and Health, says Sri Lanka reported its last occurrence of rinderpest in 1994 and gave the last rinderpest vaccination in 1997. In 2010, Sri Lanka began testing blood samples from cattle to gather evidence that the country is free of rinderpest. Eradication of rinderpest, and control of animal diseases will mean stronger livelihoods, better nutrition and better lives.Digital Picture Album by VisualLightBox.com v2.3m
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Photos: ©FAO/Ishara Kodikara