02 February 2015 - The continuing Ebola epidemic in West Africa is a striking reminder of the need for a greater capability in all countries to rapidly detect and respond to new or re-emerging public health threats which “spill over” in humans from animal populations such as bats, rodents, and non-human primates. In order to reduce the risk of transmission and spread of emerging disease threats, FAO works with countries to develop comprehensive, proactive approaches to disease preparedness, prevention and response, especially where new threats are likely to emerge. Central to these approaches is the One Health concept, which draws on a wide array of multi-sectoral partnerships, technical disciplines and resources.
FAO has long partnered with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on disease surveillance, laboratory diagnostics, capacity development and outbreak response. Building on this strong foundation and with the support of USAID’s new Emerging Pandemic Threats 2 (EPT2) programme, FAO will expand the operational platforms, institutional partnerships and knowledge base developed over the past decade in order to pre-empt or combat avian influenza as well as newly emerging diseases of animal origin that could threaten human health. Combating these threats at their source in animals, FAO under EPT2 will work with more than 20 countries in Africa and Asia to strengthen their capacities in emerging disease prevention, detection and response.
Partnerships are key
Partnerships are critical to making FAO assistance effective. For example, in Indonesia FAO and USAID are building on a long and dedicated partnership with government authorities resulting from over a decade of work on avian influenza. Dr Rahmat Santika, Deputy for Health of the Coordinating Ministry of Human Development and Culture of the Republic of Indonesia welcomed the EPT2 initiative as an opportunity to further develop national capacities and strengthen coordination among ministries.
Jonathan Ross, Director of USAID’s Health Office in Indonesia cited this moment as a time to “inspire and push us to build on the many achievements, lessons learned and best practices” from previous programmes. Ross said the multistakholder support of FAO, WHO, civil society, academia and others, applied during past pandemic and outbreak situations can “inspire other countries to learn from Indonesia, as clearly recognized during Global Health Security Agenda (GSHA) meeting” in Jakarta in August 2014. He congratulated the Republic of Indonesia for its dedication as a country leader for GHSA.
Within the EPT2 programme and in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, FAO will soon begin partnership work on three new USAID projects to provide additional technical support to developing countries.
Under PREDICT-2, FAO will collaborate with project implementers to assist focus countries in monitoring viruses with pandemic potential as well as behaviours, practices, and conditions associated with viral evolution, spillover, amplification and spread.
Through the One Health Workforce (OHW) project, FAO will interact with the university networks founded under previous USAID programmes to partner with universities in Africa, Southeast Asia and the United States of America to train the current and future workforce across multiple sectors (i.e. human health, animal health and environmental health) and disciplines (i.e. medicine, public health, epidemiology, agriculture and ecology).
Finally, FAO will engage with the Preparedness and Response project to strengthen national and international relationships developed under previous avian influenza and emerging threat programmes.
FAO brings to these initiatives its significant technical resources and experience as a knowledge organization in support of making One Health a reality. Embracing the interconnectedness of global health, including animals, humans and the environment, FAO will support the integration of multisectoral and multidisciplinary approaches into strategic planning, policy development and information sharing.