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FAO, OIE and WHO reinforce Ghana’s capacities on zoonotic disease risk assessment

Mr. Benjamin Adjei Assistant FAO Representative to Ghana addressing the participants

Through the Tripartite Operational Tool to conduct Joint Risk Assessment (JRA), Ghana’s health system will be reinforced in a One Health Approach

Zoonotic diseases are transmitted between animals and humans and account for more than three-quarters of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. These infectious diseases often pose a threat to public health and challenge the animal health and environmental sectors. Many pathogens infect humans as well as animals because they live in the same ecosystems. Single sector efforts can not prevent or eliminate the problem. To effectively prevent rabies in humans, for example, it is essential to target the animal source of the virus (for example, by vaccinating dogs).

It is therefore necessary to identify, at the national level, the information and expertise of all relevant sectors when assessing health risks resulting from zoonoses in order to better understand and manage risks at the human-animal-environment interface. As such, zoonotic disease management needs collaboration between the animal health and human health sectors, and often the environment sector, including wildlife, with timely flow of information and coordinated action. Such zoonoses-specific information can then be shared and assessed jointly by the involved sectors, and other stakeholders. However, to proceed efficiently the sectors must agree on a standard approach and process and be guided by best practices. Historically, each sector has applied their specific tools and processes for outbreak investigations, surveillance, and risk assessments on zoonotic diseases in the same manner as they would have for non-zoonotic human and animal diseases. Currently, practical joint approaches, operational tools, and processes to support national multisectoral collaboration for zoonoses have outlined the need for collaboration among these institutions and other stakeholders in order to operationalize One Health approaches.

In this context, the Tripartite collaboration between the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO) and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) are working together to address health risks at the human–animal–environment interface, including developing global strategies and standard tools to ensure a consistent, harmonised approach throughout the world. Such standard tools include the operational tool for conducting joint risk assessment (JRA).

In May 2019, regional epidemiologists, and other technical level representatives from WHO, OIE and FAO headquarters, regional, and country level offices came together to be trained on the use of the Joint Risk Assessment (JRA) Operational Tool and on how to run pilot workshops throughout the region. As a follow up of this JRA training, FAO-ECTAD, Ghana has taken the initiative to organize a national JRA training workshop from 23 to 26 July 2019 in Accra.

During the first day, ten facilitators from the Veterinary Services Directorate of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ghana Health Service of the Ministry of Health and Environmental 

Protection Agency of the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology, Wildlife, National Disaster Management Organization have been trained on the use of the JRA tool and in the running and facilitation of national JRA exercises. The main objective is to build a pool of facilitators in Ghana that can be called upon to support piloting and/or implementation of the JRA tool in country and thus, enhance coordination and trust-building between the public health, animal health, and environment sectors and all other relevant sectors.

At the opening ceremony, Assistant FAO Representative in Ghana, Mr. Benjamin Ajei, emphasized the need for information and expertise from all the relevant sectors brought together to combact the threats of zoonotic disease: “The  JRA  tool provides policy makers with scientifically sound advice that can be used to inform risk management and communication policies for effective preparedness, prevention, and response to a zoonotic disease events". 

Regarding the relevance and acceptability of JRA tool for stakeholders, he also added that “Regularly conducted JRA supports international regulations, such as International Health Regulations and the OIE standards, by providing a mechanism to effectively address management decisions and communications”. 

Furthermore, this workshop will provide recommendations that will enable decision-makers to develop and implement risk management measures, as well as disseminate science-based communication messages that are harmonized across sectors or even put in place together.

About the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA)

The Global Health Security Action Program (GHSA) was launched in February 2014 and represents a growing partnership of more than 50 countries, international organizations and non-governmental actors to help build the capacity of countries to contribute to create a safe and secure world against the threats of infectious diseases and to raise global health security as a national and global priority.

GHSA is pursuing a multilateral and multisectoral approach to strengthen both global capacity and countries' ability to prevent, detect and respond to infectious diseases of natural, accidental or deliberate origin. A program supporting the GHSA is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by FAO in partnership with other international organizations in 10 countries in West and Central Africa: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal and Sierra Leone.