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Countries pledge to wipe out sheep and goat plague globally

Worldwide campaign aims for complete eradication of Peste de Petits Ruminants by 2030

Photo: ©FAO/Roberto Faidutti
A herdsman in Central African Republic prepares to vaccinate his flock.

2 April, 2015, Abidjan , Cote d'Ivoire - High-level authorities from 15 countries pledged on Thursday to collaborate on a global plan to wipe out forever the devasting animal disease known as ‘Peste des petits ruminants' by 2030, a lethal plague for goats and sheep and the scourge of rural households in vast swathes of the developing world.

Ministerial delegations, along with more than 300 participants from across the continents, representatives of regional bodies and international organizations, agreed to a plan to control and eradicate PPR drawn up by FAO and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and presented at a meeting organized by the two institutions with the Government of Cote d'Ivoire.

The campaign will make PPR only the second  animal disease ever to be eradicated, after rinderpest in 2011. PPR is estimated to cause over $2 billion in losses each year, mostly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and its elimination will improve food and nutritional security for billions of consumers and especially the more than 300 million vulnerable households who keep sheep and goats in the affected regions.

"We have a plan, the tools, the science, and the partners," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. "Eradication of PPR is not only within reach, but also in our hands. With OIE, we have agreed to establish a joint secretariat for the implementation to be hosted by FAO." 

"We can mobilize now public and private components of national veterinary services worldwide to influence our strategy," stated OIE Director General, Dr Bernard Vallat. "Improving animal health is our duty and our passion."

Eradication is a "bolder next step"

Eradication is a step beyond efforts to control and reduce incidences of the disease. It is a "bolder next step" in line with the Strategic Development Goals that the international community is drafting in 2015, which include ending rather than reducing hunger, Graziano da Silva said.

The plan developed by FAO and OIE is estimated to cost from US$4 to US$7 billion over a 15-year period. Annual savings generated by eradication are expected to quickly pay back the investment required. FAO and OIE believe that this could be done in less time if they have the strong support from governments, partners and regional organizations.

Moreover, the campaign will produce very significant collateral benefits, both by boosting the goods and services of the national veterinary systems that can control other livestock diseases such as brucellosis or foot-and-mouth disease, and because eradication of the PPR threat will unleash greater investment in the sector, improve nutrition, and secure people's livelihoods.

Demand for meat and milk from small ruminants in Africa is expected to rise by 137 percent from 2000 to 2030, and even more in Asia, according to FAO, and diseases cripple the efficiencies in reaching these needs.

The timetable for eradication

PPR can be eradicated in half the time it took to eradicate rinderpest if the global strategy devised by FAO and OIE is adequately resourced and well-coordinated at all levels, with strong political commitment from national authorities and effective engagement with Veterinary Services and rural communities.

The campaign calls on nations to adopt its four-stage approach, beginning with an assessment period expected to last between one and three years. The second stage, lasting two to five years, focuses on control and risk management, while the third is geared to final eradication and will take between two to five years. The final stage requires countries to document that there have been no cases of PPR for at least 24 months.

The first, diagnostic stage requires identifying the numbers and where the flocks are, where they are most at risk, and also endowing veterinary services with legislative approval and enabling environment to intervene.

While voluntary vaccination is always encouraged, the strategy will require systematic vaccination in the second stage, focusing initially on areas where PPR incidence is greatest. In the third phase, vaccination is obligatory and considered a public rather than a private good.

The eradication campaign calls for immunizing up to 80 percent of all animals, an outcome that will require vaccination of almost all small ruminants that are more than three months old.

An inexpensive, safe and reliable vaccine complying with OIE standards on quality exists for PPR, and national and regional authorities encourage vaccine makers to achieve greater capacity while researchers seek ways to make thermostable versions of the vaccine able to withstand higher ambient temperatures.

About PPR

PPR is caused by a virus that can kill as many as 90 percent of the animals it infects within days, and after a rapid expansion over the past 15 years is now present in around 70 countries.

The disease is related to rinderpest, the cattle plague that FAO and OIE declared eradicated in 2011, thereby ending a primary cause of famine and unrest in recent centuries.

The 2.1 billion small ruminants in the world - 80 percent of which live in affected regions - are critical assets for poor rural households in developing countries, providing quality protein, milk, nutrition, fertilizer, wool and fibre as well as income opportunities and financial flexibility.

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