Fifteenth Session

Rome, 25-29 January 1999, Red Room


Table of Contents


1. In 1994, the Hundred-and-sixth Council approved the Director-General's proposal to set up a special programme on The Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES). An outline of the proposed system was included in the Director General's 1994 Review of the Programmes, Structures and Policies of the Organization (CL 106/2, March 1994, Annex 1). EMPRES is concerned with transboundary diseases which are defined as: "those that are of significant economic, trade and/or food security importance for a considerable number of countries; which can easily spread to other countries and reach epidemic proportions; and where control/management, including exclusion, requires co-operation between several countries".

2. The objectives of EMPRES have been endorsed by the World Food Summit through Objective 3.1 of Commitment Three of The World Food Summit Plan of Action, appended to the Report of the World Food Summit of 1996, which states inter alia that international institutions will "seek to secure effective prevention and progressive control of plant and animal pests and diseases, including especially those which are of transboundary nature, such as rinderpest, cattle tick, foot and mouth disease and desert locust, where outbreaks can cause major food shortages, destabilize markets and trigger trade measures; and promote concurrently, regional collaboration in plant pests and animal disease control and widespread development and use of integrated pest management practices".

3. At the same time Objective 5.2 of Commitment Five states inter alia that international organizations will "maintain, promote and establish, as quickly as possible, in collaboration with non-governmental organizations and other organizations, as appropriate, the preparedness strategies and mechanisms agreed upon at the International Conference on Nutrition (ICN), including development and application of climate forecast information for surveillance and early-warning, drought, flood, other natural disasters, pests and animal disease alertness".

4. The EMPRES livestock vision is "To promote the effective containment and control of the most serious epidemic livestock diseases as well as newly emerging diseases by progressive elimination on a regional and global basis through international cooperation involving early warning, early/rapid reaction, enabling research and coordination."

5. The following status report summarizes the activities undertaken under the Livestock and Desert Locust elements of EMPRES.


6. The animal diseases component (EMPRES-Livestock) focuses on the serious epidemic livestock diseases which have the potential to cause catastrophic production losses, constrain international trade in livestock and livestock products, and threaten food security.


In support of the Global rinderpest Eradication Programme (GREP)

7. No consolidated picture of global rinderpest distribution existed at the inception of EMPRES and country notifications did not accurately reflect their true status - there was no organized global monitoring of rinderpest occurrence. Rectifying this deficit was considered to be vital to GREP, indeed a pre-requisite for an effective global control programme. The truly international and trans-regional involvement of EMPRES with countries and organizations undertaking rinderpest control programmes had allowed comprehensive information to be gathered, complemented by specific investigative missions under Regular Programme funding fielded by EMPRES staff or consultants to key countries either at high risk of rinderpest occurrence or where the rinderpest status was unclear, namely, Rwanda and Uganda in 1994; Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya and Uganda in 1994/95; Uganda in 1995; Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1995; Pakistan in 1995; Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar in 1995; Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Iraq, Iran and Turkey in 1995 and 1996; Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania and Kenya in 1996; Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyz in 1996; Tanzania in 1997; and China in 1997. As a result from as early as 1996 it became possible to make informed statements concerning the true distribution of rinderpest, to identify areas of endemic persistence and assess the risk of epidemic extensions. EMPRES continues to monitor the global rinderpest situation through formal and informal communications which complement the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) animal health information database, and combines this information with diagnostic confirmation and molecular analysis of virus strains provided by the EMPRES-supported FAO World Reference Laboratory for Rinderpest. This has provided valuable information on the linkages between rinderpest outbreaks, the sources of infection, the risk of epidemic extensions and new insights into sites of endemic persistence. Subsequent analysis of this information has allowed countries to be given early warning of pending epidemics with feedback into refining control strategies.

Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP)

8. Early warning is also of paramount importance for CBPP which has had a dramatic resurgence in sub-Saharan Africa. As a complement to assisting with emergency control programmes, EMPRES has undertaken a continent-wide monitoring exercise to understand the extent of the problem, the current status with trends in disease expansion and has advised countries at the periphery of active epidemics, sub-regions and international organizations of the risks of transboundary spread. One of the first EMPRES missions was fielded to Tanzania (Morogoro) in 1994 to address the issue of failure in early warning and to advise on appropriate control measures. Malawi has successfully fended off the disease following early warning of its spread in Tanzania.

Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)

9. Supporting the World Reference Laboratory for FMD at the Pirbright Laboratory, UK, is a collaborative exercise between FAO EMPRES, the European Commission for the Control of FMD and the OIE, and has been especially significant in monitoring the evolution and spread of the virus by providing early warning of the appearance and spread of new variants in Southeast and East Asia, the Near East and West Africa and clarifying the determinants of FMD occurrence in East Africa. Similar molecular analysis was employed to elucidate the epidemiology of a newly recognized pig-adapted type O strain in Eastern Asia.

National and regional capacity building

10. A number of different and diverse activities have been undertaken to strengthen the capability of countries to recognize and investigate epidemic disease outbreaks. These have included: presentations at workshops; developing and disseminating concepts of disease surveillance and performance monitoring (with the Joint FAO/IAEA Division); supporting annual training courses in "exotic diseases" held by the Onderstepoort Institute of Exotic Diseases and the University of Pretoria, South Africa, through funding and resource inputs, and sponsoring three participants from African countries per year; producing written manuals including Recognising CBPP, Infectious Abortion in Small Ruminants, and Rift Valley Fever; producing and/or disseminating video tapes on rinderpest, CBPP, FMD, lumpy skin disease and EMPRES; through the AVIS Consortium, as a partner with OIE, the Pirbright Laboratory and TELOS (a private company), producing multimedia programmes for rinderpest, FMD, CBPP, Newcastle disease and Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy; distributing two standard text books on transboundary animal diseases to selected countries, primarily those involved in GREP; support for development of portable rapid diagnostic tests; developing guidelines for evaluation of rinderpest passive disease reporting systems, purposive disease reporting systems and purposive sero-surveillance systems. The need for early warning to be viewed as a key component of emergency preparedness and a core function of a veterinary service, requiring protection during structural adjustment, has been actively promoted and countries have been encouraged to form cooperating clusters across national boundaries for easier surveillance and early warning activities.

11. EMPRES has put considerable and sustained effort into strengthening national and regional capability to undertake disease surveillance and emergency preparedness through regional workshops such as those held in Velingrad, Bulgaria (1995); Bamako, Mali (1995); Hanoi, Vietnam (1997); Dakar, Senegal (1997); and Kampala, Uganda (1998). These workshops were organized in conjunction with regional bodies such as the Organization of African Unity, Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources, Pan African Rinderpest Campaign, the Office International des Epizooites, and the Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia and the Pacific (APHCA), in close collaboration with the FAO/IAEA Joint Division.

Developing global early warning for transboundary animal diseases

12. Dissemination of information is one of EMPRES's key activities in early warning. EMPRES has included development of the concept of global early warning systems through the on-going construction of a Transboundary Animal Diseases Information system (TADInfo). This is designed to be a specialized disease data capture and analysis software with hierarchical modules able to operate at national, regional and then global levels in a Geographical Information System environment. The need for progressive development of an international system for early warning of the spread and/or occurrence of transboundary animal diseases has been actively promoted culminating in the International Committee of the OIE passing a resolution at its Sixty-sixth Session in May 1998, urging that

"Member countries, the OIE and the World Health Organization (WHO) collaborate with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to progressively develop a hierarchical global early warning system, including pilot projects to be carried out on a regional basis, which complements, but does not duplicate or replace, the existing reporting obligations to the OIE."

This links in with the development of TADinfo. It is intended that the first phase of this project be ready for field testing in selected countries and by collaborating organizations from January 1999. These activities are being supported by both the Regular Programme and extra-budgetary contributions from Ireland, Luxembourg and the USA. A project in 29 countries of the Middle East, North Africa, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa (RADISCON) is supporting surveillance networking with the financial support of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). In Central Eastern Europe EMPRES has promoted an electronic disease information network known as CENTAUR. A new avenue for the dissemination of early warning information at the local level was established by the introduction of a quarterly publication beginning in May, 1997 - the EMPRES Transboundary Animal Disease Bulletin - which contains updated situation reports on major transboundary diseases, relevant early warning signals to countries at risk, results, appropriate deductions and interpretations from the results to give added value and effect to early warning efforts.


Emergency analysis and response

13. EMPRES establishes and maintains close contact with national authorities and relevant regional organizations from the earliest stages of disease emergencies so as to assist in containment and elimination, or indeed may take the initiative to advise countries that action is needed. The first response through EMPRES in disease emergencies is usually,

EMPRES has provided the flexibility to react rapidly in a catalytic role, dovetailing synergistically with, and providing technical guidance to, the emergency activities of the Office for Special Relief Operations and the support of the Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP). This has proved valuable in addressing rinderpest emergencies in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. A similar approach has been used in relation to emergencies due to other EMPRES diseases. For example for African swine fever in Côte d'Ivoire, Benin, Togo, Nigeria, and Cape Verde; for classical swine fever in Haiti; for CBPP in Botswana, Tanzania, Uganda and Mauritania and FMD in the Philippines.

14. A consequence of the El Niño phenomenon was the occurrence of Rift Valley fever and other flood associated diseases in Eastern Africa. EMPRES collaborated with WHO and member countries in eastern Africa. The EMPRES disease risk maps based on satellite imagery were found very useful in guiding ground epidemiological surveillance teams. Additional assistance was provided through the TCP to mitigate the effects of Rift Valley fever and other flood related diseases. A study has also been undertaken on the risk analysis of the impact of Rift Valley fever on livestock trade from the Horn of Africa to the Arabian Peninsula.

Emergency Preparedness

15. EMPRES has played a leading role in the development of national and regional early reaction capabilities through workshops on concepts of emergency preparedness and contingency planning in collaboration with OAU/IBAR, IAEA, OIE and the European Commission for the Control of FMD as well as by preparation of technical/training manuals on rinderpest. It has published in 1996 the second edition of the Manual on the Diagnosis of Rinderpest and is finalizing a Rinderpest Emergency Preparedness Manual for Africa while a generic Animal Disease Emergency Preparedness Plan with a Rinderpest specific module is in the pipeline. It is hoped that individual countries will then be able to prepare their own plans using the guidelines but with the necessary modifications reflecting their peculiar situations and needs.


16. With respect to co-ordination, EMPRES has concentrated on the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme (GREP), and has included planning for and collaborating in regional programmes for the progressive control of other strategic diseases, within the "clinical rinderpest complex", especially CBPP and FMD. Starting in 1995 EMPRES convened a series of three expert consultations (December 1995, GREP Consultative Group; July 1996, "The World without Rinderpest", technical consultation; July 1997 technical consultation). In conjunction with the GREP meetings, EMPRES convened two expert consultations to review and endorse/modify the outcomes of the technical consultations in 1996 and 1997 (July 1996, "Prevention and Control of Transboundary Diseases"; July 1997, "Developing National Emergency Prevention Systems for Transboundary Animal Diseases").

17. An Epidemiologically based Blueprint charting the progression of each member country in obtaining internationally verified freedom from rinderpest infection before the year 2010 has been elaborated. This is now gaining acceptance as an important management planning tool for rinderpest eradication strategy. The most successful areas have been India and Africa. In Africa, EMPRES is collaborating with the OAU Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources both in GREP strategy development in technical support to the Pan African Rinderpest Campaign (PARC), through Epidemiology, diagnostic and surveillance technology (with the collaboration of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division), vaccine quality assurance and communication for community participation.

18. The spread of CBPP in Sub-Saharan Africa caused EMPRES, in conjunction with FAO partners (principally OAU-IBAR, SADC and OIE) to propose control programmes for sub-regions in Africa, ultimately leading to a Regional CBPP Eradication Programme (RCEP). The situation of CBPP has been deteriorating in Africa during the last eight years. It has been particularly serious since 1994 when the disease invaded southern Tanzania and Botswana in areas where it had not been seen for over 50 years. There have been serious episodes of CBPP epidemics now in several countries: Uganda, Zambia, Mauritania, and other areas where the disease had been endemic such as Angola, northern Namibia and Mali. For the SADC countries, it may be pertinent to note that until 1990 CBPP was virtually an exotic disease, which was confined to Angola and the northern strip of Namibia.

19. EMPRES has addressed this issue through early warning, surveillance activities, technical assistance projects, training and awareness workshops and collaborating with partners in evolving strategies for the progressive control of this disease from Africa. In this connection, together with other CBPP experts, EMPRES has contributed actively to the preparation of the OIE pathway for CBPP and one of the recently infected countries, Botswana, has already obtained the status of provisional freedom from the disease. EMPRES proposed a CBPP strategy for East Africa following the Arusha meeting (September 1995), held a co-ordination meeting in Gaborone, Botswana in 1997 to devise a strategy for CBPP control in the SADC countries, and a sub-regional workshop in Nouakchott, Mauritania, in February 1998. In October 1998 EMPRES convened a Joint FAO-OAU-OIE consultative group of CBPP experts to design long term strategies for the progressive control of CBPP, primarily in Africa, and for defining the areas of research requiring donor attention.

20. EMPRES has collaborated with both the OIE and PAHO in developing regional strategies for foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) control. In the Americas the leading agency is PAHO. A Hemispheric Plan for the eradication of FMD from the Americas by the year 2009 has been adopted by the Joint PAHO/OIE/FAO Ministerial Conference on the Impact of Foot-and-Mouth Disease on Trade and Food security which was held in Brasilia, July 1996. In Southeast Asia EMPRES is collaborating with the OIE which will be the lead agency to coordinate FMD control in this region, with the objective of eventual regional freedom from the disease. Two regional TCP projects were formulated by EMPRES and guided technically - one for harmonization of cross-border livestock movements and the other for surveillance and disease control.

21. FAO/EMPRES has recently been involved in assessing the epidemiological situation regarding African Swine Fever in 13 West African countries and in delivering assistance to affected member states. This has included the eradication of this disease from Côte d'Ivoire and control programmes in Togo, Benin and Nigeria.


22. Establishing the World Reference Laboratories for the three strategic EMPRES diseases (rinderpest, CBPP and FMD) was the first priority for EMPRES. The World Reference Laboratory for FMD (Pirbright Laboratory, UK) has been strengthened from 1994 with additional funding from OIE and the European Commission for the Control of FMD. The World Reference Laboratory for Rinderpest (Pirbright Laboratory, UK) was designated in 1994 and subsequently supported. The World Reference Laboratory for CBPP is to be designated at Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement: Département d'élevage et de médecine véterinaires tropicaux, Montpelier, France at the end of 1998. A new concept was introduced - that of Collaborating Centres for Transboundary Animal Diseases with a regional and sub-regional focus.

23. Regarding vaccine research, EMPRES supported work on recombinant rinderpest vaccine through a Letter of Agreement with the Ethiopian National Veterinary Institute and the University of California.

24. Worldwide, Newcastle Disease is considered to be the most devastating viral disease of chicken. EMPRES supported vaccine application trials mixing vaccine with feed and administering it to backyard poultry in Ethiopia, Gambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. An André Mayer Research Fellow has analysed rural poultry production systems and gender factors in Africa.


25. Field activities have been a major preoccupation of EMPRES staff. Regarding Trust Fund projects, EMPRES has coordinated and backstopped seven projects funded by various donors (European Commission, Australia, Japan, IFAD, UNDP, UK and Ireland). Apart from Rinderpest, other major projects implemented under EMPRES were an Australian-funded FMD control project in the Philippines, a Japanese-funded vaccine technology project for Africa, and the IFAD-funded RADISCON project (mainly for surveillance activities) in the Near East Region.



26. EMPRES (Desert Locust) has given its first attention to the countries bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden (Central Region) where Desert Locust plagues and upsurges have frequently originated from in the past. EMPRES pilot activities began in that region in 1995 and were expanded in early 1997 into a full donor-assisted programme. Eight key locust-affected countries have joined the programme in the Central Region: Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. Each country has appointed an EMPRES Liaison Officer to work closely with the programme. In addition, the programme is active in Somalia in collaboration with local authorities in Hargeisa. The Central Region programme is supported by donor assistance from Belgium, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, UK and the USA. Besides the EMPRES Liaison Officers, the programme is implemented by FAO staff, both international and national, based in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen. A UN Volunteer is assigned to Somalia.

27. In the Western Region, EMPRES has mainly been active in Mauritania and in other locust-affected countries of the Sahel, although the affected countries from Northwest Africa are also participating in the programme with donor support to EMPRES from France, Japan, Norway and the USA. A full EMPRES programme, corresponding to the Central Region programme, has been developed in collaboration with the affected countries and will soon be submitted to donors for consideration. In the Eastern Region the key affected countries are India, Iran and Pakistan. All three countries already have a relatively strong Desert Locust control capacity and therefore EMPRES so far has been less active in that region. Some support has nevertheless been provided for training and equipment under EMPRES.

28. EMPRES activities are closely coordinated with the activities of the three FAO Regional Commissions for Controlling the Desert Locust. A `Framework for Coordination between the Central Region Commission and the EMPRES Central Region Programme' was developed in July 1998 and similar documents are expected to follow for the other regions when appropriate. A number of inter-regional EMPRES activities, such as studies on the economic significance of the Desert Locust, have also started with the help of donor support.


Early Warning

29. Survey operations have been strengthened in key countries by providing equipment, training, and operational support when needed. A pilot system for providing survey teams with vegetation maps based on corrected and calibrated satellite images has been established in Eritrea. An information exchange network based on e-mail connections is already well developed in the Central Region and is in the process of being expanded to the other regions. Procedures for collecting, storing and exchanging survey and control data in electronic form through the network are under development.

Early Reaction

30. The capacity of EMPRES countries for fast and efficient control operations has been strengthened through equipment, training, consultancies and operational support when required. Various workshops have reviewed early control operations and have identified areas in need of improvement. An evaluation of recent Desert Locust campaigns has been completed in seven key countries. Contingency arrangements have been reviewed in nine key countries and contingency plans have been prepared for certain scenarios.


31. Under a Belgium-funded EMPRES component, progress has been made in detecting through satellite images the sparse and scattered vegetation in Desert Locust breeding areas. Research on improved pesticide application technology is being pursued as part of an EMPRES project supported by Norway. This work is directed at attempting to reduce pesticide dosages during aerial spraying operations in combination with advanced navigation systems. Studies on the economic significance of the Desert Locust have started in collaboration with key affected countries and donors. A preliminary economic analysis of Desert Locust management was completed in 1997.


32. EMPRES has been established as a joint collaborative programme in which affected countries, donors and FAO participate resulting in substantially increased collaboration in matters of locust control.

33. Progress in strengthening the locust survey and control operations in affected countries has resulted in the early detection and successful control of locust infestations in a number of countries (e.g. Yemen and Mauritania in 1996, Saudi Arabia and Sudan in 1997 and 1998).

34. In spite of initial progress achieved by EMPRES it should be realized that much remains to be done. It is also necessary to be aware that the system of emergency prevention, as it is being established for the Desert Locust, will have its limitations if locust breeding conditions become favourable over very large areas. This means EMPRES is not (and cannot be) designed to prevent all emergencies, because this would require very large and unsustainable organizational structures. However, it is expected that improved early warning and early reaction will prevent most emergencies and that in the remaining cases EMPRES can serve as a buffer before additional support can be organized.

35. Although the plant protection component of EMPRES is currently confined to dealing with the Desert Locust problem, a serious outbreak of the Malagasy race of the African Migratory Locust, and to a lesser extent of the Red Locust, has caused international concern in recent years and is briefly described here. The origin of the outbreak, which is still not under control, can be traced to heavy rains induced by cyclones in the southwest corner of Madagascar in 1994-95. Three successive breeding cycles took place from October 1996 to April 1997 and resulted in infestations extending over an estimated 2 million ha. By October 1997 locust swarms had infested the western side of Madagascar up to the 17th parallel and up to that date 227 000 ha had been sprayed. By November 1997 the infestation was estimated to have increased to 4 million ha and a further 500 000 ha required immediate treatment. The breeding season of November 1997 to April 1998 was less favourable, with only two breeding cycles completed, but swarms continued to spread also reaching the eastern side of the island. The situation remains serious with a potential for further breeding in the 1998-99 season. FAO has issued several appeals to the international community and coordinated a massive international effort to try to bring the outbreak under control, but favourable breeding conditions and difficulties in organizing the survey and control operations have meant that a continuing effort is required. Furthermore FAO is concerned about possible environmental side-effects of the spraying on the unique fauna and flora of Madagascar and has encouraged studies to evaluate and minimize these effects.