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FAO supports Kenya’s animal health workforce to sharpen disease response skills

Vaccination of animals during drought response exercise in Kenya's Samburu County
19/12/2017

Nanyuki – A three-day training targeting veterinary professionals and para-professionals from Kenya’s Samburu, Laikipia, Meru, Isiolo, Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet counties and the Regional Veterinary Investigation Laboratories - Karatina and Eldoret has wrapped up.  The aim of the training was to build the capacity of sub-national level veterinary officers to conduct disease surveillance and reporting using mobile phone technology. The target is to improve disease reporting coverage from the grass root level along the whole reporting chain including the private sector to at least fifty-percent of cases reported. In addition, the training equipped the officers with skills to conduct outbreak investigation and quick response.

The selected counties which represent some of Kenya’s key pastoral regions have over the last four years performed poorly in terms of number of disease surveillance reports, timeliness, consistency, representativeness, data quality, investigation and response to disease outbreaks. More than eighty officers both in public and private practice were equipped with the requisite tools and competencies to prevent, detect and respond adequately and rapidly to infectious disease threats.

With funding support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the  Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) portfolio, the training was implemented in collaboration with Kenya’s Directorate of Veterinary Services (DVS).

“The war on diseases can be won if we are able to detect them early and control them before they spread”, said Dr Harry Oyas, the representative of the Director of Veterinary Services.

He further added that for this to be achieved, the veterinary work force would require skills in surveillance techniques and the ability to act on surveillance findings.

A strong disease surveillance and reporting system augurs well with Kenya’s development Vision 2030  which aims to create Disease Free Zones for purposes of animal and animal products export. International trade in livestock and livestock products requires regular credible reports on a country’s disease status to allow for risk assessment by trading partners.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) supports Kenya’s veterinary services institutional capacity for prevention, early detection and rapid response of infectious disease including the trans-boundary animal diseases.

To build the confidence of the trading partners, “it is paramount to emphasize on the need for consistent, timely and credible reports from all the animal health professionals both in private practice and the public sector to build the confidence of trading partners”, says FAO’s resident Epidemiologist, Dr. Austine Bitek.

To achieve this, Kenya’s Directorate of Veterinary Services requires quality, complete and timely animal resource information for planning, decision making and monitoring activities. In the recent past, the disease reporting and surveillance system has experienced major challenges resulting in unrepresentative, untimely data. Some of the challenges identified include lack of technical support at the counties, lack of a proper real-time data capture tools, inadequate data management and backstopping from the national level.

One of the technologies introduced to the officers is on EpiCollect, an open source platform developed by London’s Imperial College which enables real-time data collection using mobile applications such as tablets, phones and phablets.

EpiCollect is a mobile and web Smartphone data collection application, which enables users to launch and define project attributes through a user-friendly interface.  The application enables Data collection and allows for a two-way communication between field surveillance teams and their data bases. The data collected can be submitted to a common web database for display.

“Livestock disease surveillance data collected is geo-referenced in both tabular and spatial form” explained FAO-Kenya’s geographic information system officer, Joseph Matere.

In addition to disease surveillance and reporting, the officers were trained on outbreak investigation. Participants were taken through steps of outbreak investigation using a One Health approach, outbreak reporting, sample collection and submission.

Contact:

Ruth Lehmann |Communications Specialist | FAO-Kenya | Email: Ruth.Lehmann@fao.org