Bangkok, 29 June 2012 - Farmers and consumers stand to benefit from a new global strategy to control the spread of a deadly livestock disease that was endorsed today by representatives from more than 100 countries and international donors at a conference in Bangkok.
The conference on foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) was organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), with support from Thailand's Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.
More than 1 billion smallholder farmers around the world depend on livestock for their livelihoods, but outbreaks of FMD inflict an estimated annual global loss of $5 billion.
Developing countries are often hardest hit by FMD, a highly-contagious viral disease, with small farmers suffering devastating impacts on their earnings and survival. Consumers are also affected as they pay more for milk, meat and other foodstuffs when FMD fells livestock.
Foot-and-mouth disease affects cattle, swine, sheep, goats and other ruminants, as well as a number of wildlife species. The global strategy developed by FAO and OIE advises countries on their risk management policy for controlling FMD outbreaks, allowing them to take early steps to prevent the disease from spreading to other farms, communities and across borders.
Partnerships needed for capacity development
The Strategy will have a big impact by decreasing the ravages of FMD, and by improving countries' situations with regard to many other diseases, some of which affect human health directly.
"For the Global Strategy to succeed it needs more than the partnership of FAO and OIE; it needs the producers and marketing sectors to participate, as well as the veterinary services, and the pharmaceutical and vaccine companies. And it will need sustained support from financial institutions and the generosity of funders," FAO's assistant director-general Hiroyuki Konuma told those attending the three-day, FAO/OIE Global Conference on Foot-and-Mouth Disease Control, which ran from 27 to 29 June.
High-level officials from regional and international organizations participated in the discussions of the strategy at the Bangkok conference, along with experts and donors. The conference was the second on FMD, with the first having taken place in Asunción, Paraguay in 2009.
As the world population expands from just under 7 billion people today to more than 9 billion expected in 2050, the demand for milk, meat and animal-based products will rise steeply in the years to come. The vast majority of that increasing demand will come from developing countries and emerging economies in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This growth will also be driven by steadily improving incomes in those same areas.
In 2050, demand for meat is expected to surge by 76 percent, while demand for dairy will increase by 62 percent. The world will have to produce 65% more eggs than produced today to meet soaring demand.
Aiming for FMD freedom
With cross-border trade also increasing, the transboundary nature of FMD is a regional threat that requires regional approaches and responses.
"Foot-and-mouth disease is not a priority in many countries, but when it strikes, the damage is enormous, ranging from losses in production to the culling of animals and trade bans. Good governance of national veterinary services using the OIE PVS Pathway is a critical element of mitigating foot-and-mouth disease with a positive impact on food security and poverty. Besides global control is in the interest of FMD-free countries because it avoids reintroduction of the disease on their territory," OIE Director-General Bernard Vallat told the conference.
Included in the process is OIE official recognition of national control programmes and of FMD freedom: today 66 out of 178 OIE member countries are free from FMD.
Even developed countries that were previously free of the disease, can suffer outbreaks of FMD: a severe event in the United Kingdom in 2001 caused losses of as much as $30 billion, and a 1997 epidemic in Taiwan Province, People's Republic of China cost $15 billion.
The Global Strategy will also promote and strengthen FMD control through the improvement of national veterinary services responsible for animal disease control, so that they can comply with OIE standards on quality. The Strategy is an opportunity to initiate actions that will have beneficial consequences far beyond the control of just one disease. Veterinary services will be better able to combat and prevent other major diseases affecting livestock and other animals.
The Global Strategy is expected to produce three results:
- FMD is controlled in most countries and eliminated in some of them
- Veterinary services and their infrastructures are improved
- Prevention and control of other major diseases of livestock are improved
The Global Strategy includes the development of regional vaccine banks (e.g. OIE regional vaccine bank for Southeast Asia, FAO's Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia, etc.) and centres for quality control for developing countries. Other measures include improving the efficiency of surveillance systems, capacity of laboratories, quality control of vaccines and movement control of animals.