FAO Regional Office for Africa

Africa ramping up One Health efforts

FAO-OIE-WHO join forces in addressing issues at the human-animal-ecosystem interface in Africa

©FAO/Michael Tewe

27 May 2019, Brazzaville – In light of FAO’s aim for Zero Hunger by 2030 for an estimated 8.5 billion people, a One Health or multi-sectoral, multidisciplinary approach is necessary. Currently, 1/3 people is malnourished, a large share of food produced is wasted and green-house gas emissions are exacerbating climate change jeopardizing crop, livestock aquaculture and fish farming. Furthermore, there is increasing competition for natural resources and outbreaks of transboundary pests and diseases are growing at an alarming rate, including diseases that jump across species boundaries.  

With global efforts to support One Health programming to combat zoonotic diseases at the human-animal-ecosystem interface, the second tripartite Africa Coordination meeting was held at FAO Congo, in Brazzaville, gathering key One Health partners from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and World Health Organization (WHO).
Since establishing this coordination mechanism at Africa level is crucial to roll out tripartite activities, the three organizations shared information on current institutional frameworks and progress to date on One Health implementation in Africa. Plans for the future include mapping out areas for synergy and collaboration, including developing a joint work plan.

Priority areas of work for One Health collaborations in Africa

Following the discussions, participants identified the priority activities relevant for Africa based on the Global Tripartite Activities 2017-2020. For health systems, participants recognized re-enforcement of national services in human health, animal health, and environmental health.  Furthermore, there was a call for efforts related to disease intelligence, early warning, prevention and rapid response/control, especially to address zoonoses including but not limited to dog-mediated rabies, zoonotic influenza, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), Ebola, zoonotic tuberculosis, Monkey pox, vector-borne diseases such as Rift Valley fever and Lassa Fever.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) represents a major global threat across human, animal, plant, food and environmental sectors.  Limiting the emergence of AMR is critical to preserve our ability to treat diseases in humans, animals, and plants, and protect both health and food security. FAO, OIE, and WHO have come together to support governments, health care workers, veterinary and plant professionals, and other stakeholders to promote the responsible use of antimicrobials in humans, animals and plants.  In May 2018, the partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at respective headquarters levels signaling our joint cooperation, and strong focus on AMR, in the context of the “One Health” approach, and they also engaged closely with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to strengthen the integration of environment in the collective work. The Tripartite Work Plan on antimicrobial resistance was also identified as a very important technical area of work that should be prioritized in moving forward with the collaboration in Africa

Additional technical areas discussed included food safety, climate change, and human-wildlife-livestock conflict, bushmeat, and communications.

The way forward for Africa’s tripartite cooperation

After discussions, the participants agreed to complete an Africa Regional Tripartite Work Plan template to consolidate joint technical priorities. The participants also recommended that a common methodology for country level One Health assessments be jointly developed to undertake an analysis of One Health implementation and impact at country level.

Dr. Scott Newman, the Senior Animal Health and Production Officer at the FAO Regional Office for Africa and FAO Focal point for the Tripartite Collaboration said, “The outcomes from this Tripartite One Health Regional Coordination Group are very valuable and will help the tripartite (FAO, OIE, WHO) support member countries to address priority issues at the human-wildlife-livestock-ecosystem interfaces. While we recognize the importance of One Health collaboration to address zoonotic diseases and AMR, from the FAO perspective, there are additional opportunities for collaboration in new areas such as sustainable wildlife management, human-wildlife-livestock conflict resolution, pastoralism, response to drought and climate change, and ultimately, achieving the sustainable development goals within the context of the Malabo Declaration”. Dr. Newman noted that these additional areas of work may also require additional partners and collaborators to comprehensively address these topics.
FAO previously developed a One Health Strategic Action Plan, envisioning to protect both health and food security.

The strategic plan also helped place disease dynamics into a broader context of sustainable agriculture, socio-economic development, and environmental protection and sustainability.

The next Tripartite One Health Regional Coordination Group meeting is scheduled six months from now.