FAO Regional Office for Africa

Southern Africa sets out to strengthen One Health approach

Delegates attending the One Health validation workshop posing for a photo @FAO/DonaldChidoori

JOHANNESBURG - The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in coordination with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat and its Member States held a validation workshop for the Southern African Programme for One Health (SAPOH). The programme provides direction and a long-term vision to achieving an integrated one health (OH) approach in the region.

Fifteen SADC countries, namely, Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe attended the workshop and unanimously validated SAPOH. The SADC secretariate, three members of the quadripartite organizations leading the OH approach globally, that is, FAO, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) as well as other regional partners attended the validation workshop and enriched the programme with valuable contributions and inputs before its validation.

One Health is an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals, and ecosystems. This approach is suitable for Southern Africa as the main livelihood for the people is agriculture. The One Health approach is necessary to deliver effective and efficient prevention and control of infectious diseases, as well as emergency preparedness and response.

Speaking on behalf of the Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa, Patrice Talla, at the opening ceremony, FAO Representative for South Africa, Babagana Ahmadu said, “FAO and its counterparts in the One Health Quadripartite, WHO, WOAH and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), will work together to ensure that policies to support One Health were in place.”

“FAO prioritizes One Health at global and regional level. It is one of the 20 Priority Programme Areas in FAO’s New Strategic Framework (2022 to 2031). Within Southern Africa, FAO has prioritized one health as one of its three flagship programmes,” he said.

“My appreciation also goes to our fellow members of the Quadripartite, the WHO, WOAH and UNEP and other partners for accompanying us on this task. We count on you for stronger collaboration in validating and changing this draft into an actionable programme. FAO is committed to working with all of you in mobilizing resources for the implementation of this programme once it is validated,” added Babagana Ahmadu.

The WOAH Representative for Southern Africa Dr Moetapele Letshwenyo said operationalization of SAPOH would be a game changer in mitigating the risk posed by zoonotic diseases. He added that, “Worldwide, 60 per cent of infectious diseases affecting humans have their origins in animals, with nearly 75 per cent of animal diseases being transmissible to humans. The increasing interactions between humans and animals within the environment and numerous factors is exacerbating the emergence, re-emergence and spread of infectious diseases, necessitates a multi-sectoral and multidisciplinary approach”.

According to the SADC Programme Officer for Livestock, Dr Gaolathe Thobokwe, SAPOH will inform the design of future country and partner programmes to address the next pandemic in Southern Africa.

“The necessity of the OH approach in SADC is very obvious, currently, we are dealing with COVID-19 and we know consequences. In the recent past we have had Ebola; we have also had disease like rift valley fever and anthrax. It shows the need to work together whether it be animal health, public health, plant health, wildlife, environmental or climate services,” he said.

The WHO Africa Regional Team Leader for Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), Dr Ali Yahya, pointed out that communication, resource mobilization, monitoring and evaluation were essential components of the OH Programme as they enhanced accountability and learning to determine the best practices. “We might need to ensure strong energy not only to validate the document but also to support its implementation, monitoring, and documentation for further visibility to facilitate resource mobilization as well as ownership of the programme by countries,” he said.

At the end of the workshop stakeholders called for innovations from all the actors and pointed out that the successful implementation of One Health heavily relies on using locally available resources, citizen engagement, use of traditional knowledge systems and capacity building.