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FAO releases manual on Good Emergency Management Practice (GEMP)

21 September 2011 - An animal disease emergency, such as an outbreak of a transboundary animal disease (TAD), can have serious socioeconomic consequences which, at their extreme, may affect the national economy. If a new disease can be recognized quickly while it is still localized, and if prompt action is taken to contain and then progressively eliminate it, the chances of eradication of the disease are markedly enhanced. Conversely, eradication may be extremely difficult and costly, or even impossible, if the disease is not recognized and appropriate control action is not taken until the disease is widespread or has become established in domestic animals or wildlife.

Planning for emergency disease eradication or control programmes cannot be left until a disease outbreak has occurred. At that point, there will be intense pressure from politicians and livestock farmer groups for immediate action. In such a climate, mistakes will be made, resources will be misused, and deficiencies will be rapidly amplified and highlighted. Delays will result in further spread of the disease and higher costs. If there is inadequate advance planning, national animal health services will face a disease emergency with poor training and little or no previous experience. These severe problems can be avoided if there is adequate advance planning and preparation.

Preparedness programmes for animal disease emergencies provide the key to mounting early effective action in the face of an emergency. In fact, these programmes should be recognized as one of the important core functions of national animal health services. A strong linkage between animal and human health sectors may be critical to support surveillance and response.

Preparedness planning, including the development and approval of contingency plans for identified high-threat diseases, enables animal health services to be far better technically equipped to cope with a disease emergency. There are other benefits. Prior approval of plans will allow decisions to be made by politicians and senior civil servants more rapidly.

This should enable government funds for the control campaign to be released more quickly and for necessary assistance to be made available more easily from other government agencies. Pre-established relationships with other agencies, especially public health agencies, will facilitate better responses through improved communication channels. Farming communities are also more likely to cooperate in an emergency disease control programme if they see that quick, decisive action is being taken that ultimately will benefit them and that their contributions and inputs were considered during planning and review.

Contingency plans are often prepared against specific diseases that are considered to represent the greatest threat. However, contingency plans also enable animal health services to respond quickly to entirely unanticipated disease occurrences because the same general epidemiological and disease control principles and systems that were developed for specific diseases can also be applied in any new situation.

A "Good Emergency Management Practice"’ checklist is also provided in this manual. This may serve as a brief overview for managers.

FAO of the UN is an institutional partner of World Veterinary Year (Vet2011) and has recently adopted a resolution declaring Global Freedom from Rinderpest.


© FAO/Charles Bebay


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