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Ending drought emergencies and building resilience through disease control

PPR and S&GP vaccination in Isiolo County | ©FAO/Martina Torma

Thirty-five year old Yare Omar visited the Kurobaresa vaccination center with her family’s three hundred and fifty goats to have her animals vaccinated against Peste de Petits Ruminants (PPR) or sheep and goat plague, and Sheep and Goat Pox (S&GP).

Kurobaresa, in Kenya’s Isiolo County is commonly known as the ‘’place of salty water”  and is the only water source within a few kilometer radius of Kinna since all the water pans dried up due to the current drought.

Goats are one of the most important assets for families here and one of the main sources of their livelihood.

“Goats play a crucial role in our lives.  They produce milk and with the milk I can feed my eight children.  Goat meat is also an important part of our diet. Sometimes I also sell the goats, which enables me to buy clothes for my children and pay the school fees for them,” Yare explains.

Goats and other small stock animals also play a crucial role in empowering women.

“To cater for my family’s needs, I can take the goats to the markets and sell them even if my husband is not around and I am not able to ask for his permission. This is however not the case with camels and cows.  For the big animals, I have to consult my husband before I take a decision,” she adds.

At a cost of about 100 Kenyan shilling per animal, Yare’s family would not be able to vaccinate her flock but she also knows that if affected by disease, her family’s source of livelihood would be highly jeopardized.

Livestock contributes up to ninety percent of livelihood needs for dependent families.  To mitigate the onslaught of plagues such as PPR, FAO together with the Government of Kenya is carrying out a project aimed at reviving arid and semi-arid economies through livestock opportunities and improved coordination.  The overall objective of the European Union funded project is to contribute towards ending drought emergencies in Kenya through improved resilience, food and nutrition security of the targeted population.

Peste de Petits Ruminants

Peste de Petits Ruminants (PPR) is a highly contagious animal disease affecting small ruminants.  Its control and eradication plays a crucial role in efforts towards improving the livelihoods of livestock keepers in the region. Once introduced, the virus can infect up to ninety percent of sheep and goats, and the disease kills anywhere from thirty to seventy percent of infected animals. The PPR virus does not infect humans.  However, outbreaks can have a devastating socio-economic impact on food security and on the livelihoods of households dependent on small ruminants such as sheep and goats. 

The highly contagious virus that is closely related to the rinderpest virus is characterized by fever, discharges from the eyes and mouth, disturbed breathing and cough as well as diarrhea. In Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands where poverty levels are high, the majority of the households only have a few sheep and goats and no cattle which provide the only source of income and livelihoods. Due to pastoralist families’ high reliance on livestock ruminants in the region,   a PPR outbreak is likely to have a devastating effect on these families’ lives and livelihoods putting at risk their source of income and food security. In addition, the eradication of PPR is closely connected to overcoming other global challenges such as poverty reduction, access to nutritious food and building the resilience of smallholder farmers and women – the latter who at times can only afford small livestock which are cheaper.

FAO’s efforts towards the control and eradication of PPR in Kenya

In the framework of the project, FAO is carrying out massive PPR vaccination campaigns in seven Kenyan counties, namely in Turkana, Marsabit, Isiolo, Samburu, Kitui, Garissa and Tana River Counties.

In Isiolo County, which lies in the heart of Kenya, a two-week long vaccination programme in February saw more than 215,000 animals vaccinated against both PPR and S&GP. The strategic selection of locations around watering points such as the Kurobaresa stream or Dogogicha and Bisiq boreholes contributed to high turnouts of herders who in most of the cases walked long distances to reach the vaccination centers.

Several watering pans and sources dried out in the region due to the poor performance of the short rains in 2016 and one of the biggest challenges Isiolo County is facing is the high influx of animals from neighboring counties such as Wajir, Marsabit and Garissa. The animals are in relatively good condition at the moment, however, the situation is deteriorating very fast due to conflicts between the communities, decimated pastures and dry water pans.

Due to recurrent droughts such as the one Kenya is currently facing, pastoralist and agro-pastoralists are under severe strain. In search of food and water, animals have to walk very long distances and the number of times animals receive water is highly reduced. This contributes to the dehydration of animals, which is a high risk among PPR-affected animals. The convergence of animals around available watering sources and the few grazing fields becomes high in times of droughts not only increasing the risk of a possible PPR outbreak, but also amplifying the possibility of conflicts between communities.

Lack of sufficient information on the PPR disease and its symptoms as well as inefficiency in early disease detection poses a challenge to its control and eradication. Poor access to vaccination also limits the efforts being carried out, while costs can be prohibitive for smallholder herders. Vaccination costs are pushed up due to stringent quality standards such as requirement of cold chain equipment such as fridges and cooling boxes as well as biosafety and protective veterinary gear.

The fight to eradicate PPR around the world is a global initiative led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). 2030 has been set as the target date for the elimination of the disease around the globe in the Global Strategy for the Control and Eradication of PPR, agreed in 2015 by the international community. Eradication efforts include awareness raising and capacity building of veterinary health services in affected countries, strengthening of national disease surveillance systems and vaccination campaigns. FAO is facilitating the eradication efforts with the overall objective of improving small ruminant production in a sustainable way which in return has an invaluable impact on the livelihood resilience as well as food and nutrition security of the rural people.



Martina Torma | Communications | martina.torma@fao.org

Ruth Lehmann | Communications | ruth.lehmann@fao.org