FAO in Kenya

FAO boosts Kenya’s Animal Disease Surveillance Capacity and Performance Evaluation

Livestock traders presenting small ruminants for slaughter at Nanyuki abattoir

Nairobi - The animal disease surveillance capacity evaluation in Kenya has been concluded after an eleven day process aimed at improving local capacities in detection, prevention and response of animal diseases or threats, including zoonoses (diseases which can be transmitted between animals and humans).

The objective was to conduct an external evaluation of the animal disease surveillance system in place using the Surveillance Evaluation Tool (SET) which examines: institutional organization of the Directorate of Veterinary Service and legal framework at central, intermediary and local levels; timeliness and quality of laboratory analyses; surveillance activities and methods; epidemiology workforce; epidemiological training; outbreak investigation mechanisms and resources; data management and analysis; communication and reporting of surveillance results (internally, cross-sectoral, to farmers, to the general public, and internationally).

Performance attributes of the surveillance system which were evaluated included: data quality, sensitivity, specificity, timeliness, simplicity, rapidity, flexibility, acceptability, representativeness, stability and utility. Lastly, a Joint External Evaluation (JEE) component is also included in the SET toolkit addressing JEE indicators related to zoonotic diseases, workforce and real-time reporting from an animal health perspective.

SET has been developed to assess capacity and performance of national animal disease surveillance systems, in line with the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). FAO provides the SET among other tools to country Veterinary Services to improve local capacities of animal disease response systems.

The toolkit eases comparative assessments of a surveillance system’s capacity and progress towards standard indicators in each individual country as well as between countries, especially at regional level. Outputs of the external evaluation include tangible recommendations in the form of an action plan that can be initiated at country level to achieve realistic goals.

“The SET is a comprehensive tool to assess animal health surveillance systems” says Dr. Gaël Lamielle, Veterinary Epidemiologist at FAO headquarters. “Following the scoring exercise, clear outputs are automatically generated by the tool to visualize strengths and weaknesses of the system. We found SET to be very useful in identifying feasible immediate, medium and long-term actions that will ensure gradual improvement of the animal disease surveillance system in a country”.

More specifically, the tool evaluates a country’s capacity level for conducting surveillance of identified priority zoonotic diseases such as Anthrax, Rabies, Rift Valley Fever, among others. In addition, progress made under GHSA Action Package indicators is assessed and visualized.

With funding support from United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under their  Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) portfolio, SET was first piloted in the United Republic of Tanzania in June 2017, with support from  FAO’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) and The Emergency Prevention System for Animal Health (EMPRES-AH).

Assessment of Animal Disease Surveillance System

A multidisciplinary evaluation team consisting of ten experts drawn from FAO (head office and ECTAD Kenya), Ethiopia, Ghana and Kenya’s Directorate of Veterinary Services was divided into three groups to cover representative areas of the country. Key stakeholders of the surveillance system in the country at the national and sub-national levels were identified and contacted during the preparatory phase of the mission.

“I believe that lessons learnt from this exercise will greatly assist in identifying tangible actions that contribute to improving our surveillance systems” says Dr. Obadiah Njagi, Director of Veterinary Services and Chief Veterinary Officer, Kenya during the SET initiation meeting.

Field visits were conducted in various parts of the country representing different agro-ecological zones and livestock production systems. Direct observation and face-to-face interviews were conducted in a participatory manner to discuss animal health surveillance and reporting. Three routes were chosen covering the towns of Nyeri, Isiolo, Laikipia, Marsabit, Moyale, Nakuru, Kericho, Kisumu, Busia, Kajiado, Makueni, Taita Taveta, Mombasa and Kwale.

Stakeholders interviewed included livestock owners, abattoir workers, veterinary professionals and para-professionals in public and private practice, livestock traders, wildlife veterinarians and wardens, and research institutions involved in animal health activities at national and sub-national levels.  Additionally, a review of documents related to veterinary legislation, priority diseases, One Health, standard operating procedures, guidelines, surveillance plans, organograms and previous evaluation reports was conducted to gain a thorough understanding of the local surveillance system and its objectives.

After the field visits, a scoring session was held at the Directorate of Veterinary Services in Nairobi during which each of the ninety indicators of the surveillance system was qualitatively evaluated and the outputs presented to key stakeholders from the Directorate of Veterinary Services, the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the Zoonotic Disease Unit of the Ministry of Health, livestock producers and private sector representatives.

Stakeholders interviewed completed feedback forms to help FAO to improve the tool and planning of future missions. The SET toolkit will continue to be implemented in GHSA (phase one) countries in Africa, with future missions planned for Cote d’Ivoire (December 2017) and Senegal (January 2018).

ECTAD’s Regional Epidemiologist for Eastern Africa Dr. Sam Okuthe emphasized on the importance of the tool at regional level: “Different evaluations have been performed in various Eastern African countries in the past, with varying detail and output formats. This has made comparison of results very difficult. SET will allow FAO to plan targeted country assistance while streamlining regional capacity building efforts”. Stakeholders of Kenya’s animal health surveillance system reiterated the usefulness of SET for mapping out the strengths and weaknesses of the system.


Ruth Lehmann| Food and Agriculture Organization |Communications – Kenya Office |Email: [email protected]