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ISAVET training to strengthen the capacity of veterinarians in field epidemiology

ISAVET training to strengthen the capacity of veterinarians in field epidemiology

22/12/2020

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), through its Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Disease Control (ECTAD), in collaboration with the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), conducted the first phase of the In-Service Applied Veterinary Epidemiology Training (ISAVET). The main objective of this activity is to ensure the detection, reporting and response to specific animal diseases and zoonoses, including transboundary, endemic, emerging and re-emerging diseases, in consultation with other health sectors, following a One Health approach, which promotes multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary collaboration to ensure public and environmental health by reducing disease risks.

The first phase of the training began on 9 November and ran for four weeks, including three weeks of theoretical training and one week of practical training. The ceremony was opened by the Minister of Fisheries and Livestock, the FAO representative and the GHSA advisor representing USAID and it was attended by 24 participants from the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock and the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development.

Preventing and monitoring animal diseases

Over 36 face-to-face and videoconference classes strengthened veterinarian’s capacity for disease surveillance and epidemiological investigation in their respective provinces. In the epidemiological investigation process, participants were required to take samples to confirm suspected diseases in the field. Therefore, during the fourth week, devoted to hands-on practice, veterinary practitioners from the 13 provinces benefiting from this first training course were taught the techniques of sampling, autopsy and epidemiological investigation in the field. They performed blood and organ sampling in poultry and small ruminants. In addition, they learned how to handle the samples and how to ensure safe transport to a diagnostic laboratory. Farm visits were also organised to learn about the biosecurity measures to be implemented on farms to prevent the introduction and spread of diseases.

The Minister of Fisheries and Livestock, Jonathan Walusoka Wata, praised FAO's work to strengthen the capacity of Congolese veterinarians in the field of veterinary epidemiology and promised to make good use of their skills for efficient and responsible decision-making in the event of epidemics.

According to Aristide Ongone Obame, FAO Representative, building the capacity of professionals in the animal health sector in field epidemiology is part of FAO's mission and is one of the objectives of the Global Health Security (GHSA) funded by USAID. "ISAVET training will help to fill the important gap in veterinary epidemiologists at all levels of the health pyramid. Thus, FAO anticipates that in the coming months a network of epidemiologists in the fields of human and animal health will be set up in DRC to ensure disease surveillance and control under a One Health approach, he explained”.

Moreover, this training was highly appreciated by the different beneficiaries. For Dr. Monique Bukumba Milambo, head of the food and bacteriology expertise service at the veterinary laboratory in Lubumbashi, Haut Katanga: "For the first time ever, a training course for field epidemiologists in animal disease surveillance includes all the provinces of the country. We learned how to detect diseases at an early stage in order to help decision-makers make the right decisions for control, prevention and response".

Dr. Crispin Tshibangu, veterinary officer at the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, head of department for seismic and tourism management and nature conservation said: "This training is definitely advantageous for me in particular and for the Ministry of Environment in general as part of the One Health platform. Thanks to this ISAVET training, the Ministry feels directly involved in disease surveillance and control, as it is responsible for the biodiversity in which we find the host, the pathogen and the environment".

Starting on 15 December 2020, veterinarians trained will start the second phase of the ISAVET training, which consists of a three-month internship in their respective services. During this phase of the training, veterinarians will be able to produce weekly surveillance reports, audit local surveillance systems and conduct field surveys. A certificate of successful completion will be issued after a preliminary defence of their training report.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to face challenges caused by animal diseases which have a high socio-economic impact. Some of these diseases are transboundary, emerging or re-emerging and require a veterinary epidemiology capacity to monitor, detect and respond early and effectively to reduce this impact. In addition, the country is confronted with a shortage of skilled and experienced veterinary field workers to provide adequate surveillance, field investigation and risk assessment of animal health related zoonotic events and emergencies. Hence, this training represents a unique opportunity for the country to strengthen its operational epidemiological surveillance of animal diseases and zoonotic diseases in particular.

 

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