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FAO in Sierra Leone

Building capacities to prevent emerging and re-emergence of pandemics

Livestock officers collecting sample from a goat in Pate Bana Maramp village. Photo © FAO/Keifa Jaward

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in partnership withPREDICT-2 (Metabiota) has trained livestock officers from across the country on sample collection from livestock and domestic animals to be tested for different pathogens, in particular the Ebola virus and other filoviruses.

The training was conducted under the FAO component of the Emerging Pandemic Threat (EPT-2)  programme, a support to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS)  which is aimed at building and strengthening basic capacity in animal health to prevent, detect early and respond rapidly to emerging diseases threatening animal and human health.

Twenty five (25) livestock officers underwent a six-day training in Safe Animal Capture and Sampling, Livestock Sampling Methods, Basic Laboratory Safety, Bio-Security, Ethics and Policy Resources, Implementing Cold Chain for Safe Sample Transport and Storage, and Packaging and Shipping Biological Samples.

Addressing participants and stakeholders, the Country Lead for the FAO Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD), Tesfai Tseggai stated that the FAO-EPT-2 programme contributes to the Global Health security Agenda (GHSA) , a multi-sectoral approach to strengthen both the global and national capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to human and animal infectious diseases threats.  

Tseggai encouraged the trainees to be very attentive and efficient as he emphasized that “sample collection is as essential as the laboratory screening because, any mistake in the sample will affect the laboratory result.”

On the selection criteria, he explained that the districts, where the samples will be collected, must be an inhabited environment; must have a history of EVD cases during the outbreak; must be a wildlife or forested area close by; there should be an obvious contact between humans and domestic animals and livestock; must have a public health institution or clinic or PHU associated with the selected area; and preferably, the area is also Predict-2 (Metabiota) area of work.

The Director of Livestock in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Sorie Mohamed Kamara expressed gratitude to FAO for providing additional skills to officers in the Livestock Division and being a major partner in the development of the country’s livestock sector.

He acknowledged that the surveillance and sampling training is very much essential to the division as this is the first time that the officers are trained in collecting samples from wildlife as well as domestic animals and livestock.

The participants were trained on technical, theoretical and practical aspects of sample collection. The project team is also on scoping mission, engaging communities on the relevance of sampling their animals and the importance of the support of relevant authorities.

The surveillance and sampling exercise will start in early January 2017.