FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

The Near East and North Africa (NENA) region is a net importer of animal and animal products. However, being situated at the crossroads of three continents, NENA is prone to a wide range of threats, namely to transboundary animal diseases (TADs) and zoonoses (diseases that pass from animals to humans).

In addition to the huge livestock imports – from production systems with weak veterinary services – the ongoing conflicts have led to increased cross-border movements of unvaccinated livestock. This has facilitated the emergence and spread of TADs across the region. 

Improving livestock and livelihoods, and responding to animal health threats

Livestock production in Near East and North Africa

In the last decade, fast-paced human population growth (2 percent annually on average), urbanisation, income growth and changing consumption patterns, have all contributed to a sharp increase in meat consumption in the region. Although the region counts 98 million livestock units, eighty percent of which are concentrated in only six of the 19 countries, the sector’s productivity is not up to growing demands. The slow growth of animal production, a lack of good quality feed in adequate quantities and lack of appropriate policies, supporting infrastructure and services, are all significantly challenging the performance of the sector.

Added to this, climate change, recurring droughts, desertification and degradation of pasture and rangelands, accelerated by conflicts and protracted crisis, are not only leading to loss of genetic resources but also forcing countries to increase imports of animal feeds, animals and animal products, heightening concerns on TADs threats. 

Livestock, livelihoods and food security

The livestock sector plays an important role in the national economies and household food security in the region.

Although countries of the region have made efforts in containing TADs and zoonoses in an attempt to regain consumer confidence and restore the livestock sector, FAO strongly believes that more needs to be done.

Improving capacity of countries to early detect, prevent, and respond to animal health threats and livestock emergencies, will help stabilize food availability and access, and this must become an integral component of initiatives aspiring to enhance food security and nutrition, and sustainably develop small-scale agriculture.

Significant investment is needed in strengthening the capacities of veterinary services, laboratories and surveillance systems; creating better capacity in forecasting animal diseases and import risk analysis; improving vaccination coverage; improving coordination at national and regional levels to harmonise animal production and disease control efforts; promoting technologies, institutions, polices, best practices for sustainable animal production; investing in adaptation and mitigation to climate change; rehabilitation and protection of rangelands, and combating degradation and desertification.