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Chapter 1: Introduction

The control of animal diseases and the promotion and protection of animal health are essential components of any effective animal breeding and production programme. Despite remarkable technical advances in the diagnosis, prevention and control of animal diseases, the condition of animal health throughout the developing world remains generally poor, causing substantial economic losses and hindering any improvement in livestock productivity.

In developing countries, animal health services were established with the main objective of controlling major contagious and infectious diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease, rinderpest and contagious pleuropneumonia, as well as parasitic diseases, such as trypanosomiasis and tick-borne diseases. This was obviously the first priority, since the control of these diseases is a prerequisite to any successful livestock development programme.

With the present concern for sustainable economic development, more attention is now being given to other diseases that affect livestock productivity, such as helminthiasis, nutritional diseases, reproductive disorders, etc.

The successful control of disease depends initially on its timely and accurate recognition and on the presence of sound diagnostic capabilities based on effective working links between laboratories and field services. Emergencies created by outbreaks of major infectious diseases demonstrate the need for establishing, strengthening and improving such diagnostic services. As well, particular attention should be given to the development of an efficient animal disease information system.

Beyond the national level, a general increase in the movement of animals and animal products underlines the importance of international cooperation in the prevention and control of animal diseases.

Most animal health services in developing countries do not have at present adequate technical and administrative infrastructures to carry out the tasks and duties necessary for the efficient control of animal diseases and for consumer protection.

In many developing countries, there is either a shortage of skilled veterinary personnel or their services are not correctly utilized. The problem is exacerbated by deficient veterinary infrastructures and inadequate disease control programmes, veterinary legislation and information services, as well as a lack of transport, communications, veterinary products and equipment. The most common problem is the shortage of funds to sustain the activities of veterinary staff. In some developing countries, the animal health services are not given the appropriate legal power in the administrative system.

These shortages significantly reduce the effectiveness of animal health services control measures against major animal diseases. By exploiting existing conditions, local resources and international help, possibilities for improving of animal health service programmes are increased.

Veterinary education and training should receive the highest priority; however, more emphasis must be placed on the qualitative and practical aspects. Effective personnel development requires adequate planning of staff requirements, improved curriculums for undergraduate and postgraduate studies, training of auxiliary personnel and greater interregional cooperation to exploit existing training facilities fully, among other things.

Animal health services should be further developed by improving their efficiency. While the control and prevention of major infectious diseases clearly remains a government responsibility, some veterinary tasks such as the treatment of individual animals could be undertaken in other ways. Privatization is one way of improving some sectors of animal health and of responding suitably to the needs of animal owners. Other ways include contracting out certain services, creating farmer cooperatives and producer associations, recovering government costs more efficiently and using the revenue thus generated for selective subsidies. Several countries have already taken steps to reorganize their veterinary services in this way.

Developing countries must address this problem. This publication aims to assist them in improving livestock production through better control of major animal diseases. It is not intended to be a comprehensive text describing in-depth all aspects of a complex subject with worldwide variations. Instead, it is meant to serve as a guideline, providing general background information on basic topics. Its main objective is to assist animal health authorities in their organization, planning and management activities.

The contents cover major problems facing official animal health services in developing countries in contributing to the production of food of animal origin and livestock development as integral components of general social, economic and agricultural development. Other priorities of animal health services include the protection of humans against diseases that may be transmitted by animals and the production of safe food.

Biological and pharmaceutical production may be the responsibility of some services, however, only aspects of the control and management of veterinary biologicals and drugs are included in this publication.

The major issues dealt with in this publication are the objectives, functions, organization and management of animal health services. Without going into detail, relevant information, statements and recommendations make up the basic text. This general approach does not permit specific disease control or specific social, economic and ecological conditions to be dealt with. However, information is provided in the annexes on specific topics and in the selected bibliographies of general interest publications.

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