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FAO, Government of Ghana develop a plan to enhance animal disease surveillance in Ghana

A local livestock market
15/05/2019

An assessment of the animal disease surveillance system of Ghana was conducted in order to improve the country’s capacities in detection, prevention, and response of transmissible animal diseases or threats, including zoonoses (diseases which can be transmitted between animals and humans).

The 11-day mission identified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and gaps in the national animal disease surveillance system using the FAO Surveillance Evaluation Tool (SET) by focusing on 90 indicators divided into seven major areas before developing an action plan for the improvement of disease surveillance that is adapted to national disease priorities.

The evaluation team was composed of seven experts from FAO headquarters and the Ghana country office, as well as national focal points within Ghana’s Veterinary Services Directorate (VSD). In order to gather the essential information to enter into SET, the team met and interviewed over 130 stakeholders of the surveillance system at the national and field levels.

In Accra, interviews were conducted with representatives of the Ghana Health Services of the Ministry of Health, Wildlife of the Forestry Commission, Environmental Protection Agency of the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Butchers’ Association, Veterinary Council of Ghana, USAID PREDICT, National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO), and more. The team then travelled to the field to further understand the realities of animal disease surveillance in the country. Three groups were formed to cover the following regions of the country: Greater Accra, Volta, Eastern, Central, Western, Ashanti, Brong-Ahafo, Northern, and Upper East. Stakeholders interviewed included commercial and private livestock owners, abattoir workers, veterinary professionals and para-professionals in both public and private practice, livestock traders, breeders associations, wildlife veterinarians, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), security agencies and research institutions involved in animal health activities.  Additionally, a review of documents related to veterinary legislation, priority diseases, One Health, standard operating procedures (SOPs), guidelines, surveillance plans, organisational structures, and previous evaluation reports was conducted to gain a thorough understanding of the local surveillance system and its objectives.

Following the field visits, a scoring session was held at the FAO country office where each of the 90 indicators of the system was attributed a score based on the country’s capacity. Outputs of the evaluation were automatically generated by SET. These were used by the team to conduct strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis of the system and develop adapted recommendations for improvement in the form of an action plan. Lastly, a closing workshop was organized and then presented to key stakeholders of the surveillance system with initial findings from the evaluation this concluding session also presented the evaluation team with the opportunity to refine SET recommendations based on input from the stakeholders.

More on SET

SET has been developed from funding support from United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under their Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) portfolio. It is part of a catalogue of tools that FAO provides to country Veterinary Services to improve local capacities of animal disease surveillance and response systems. Ghana marks the 14th country where SET has been implemented, and action plans developed for each country have already shaped surveillance capacity-building activities in many countries.

In the future, comparative assessments every 3-5 years will measure progress towards efficient animal disease surveillance. In addition, implementation in several neighbouring countries can highlight common gaps and help develop regional approaches to enhancing surveillance.