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FAO steps up support to Kenya’s Global Health Security Agenda to address Zoonotic Diseases and Animal Health


12 June 2017, Nakuru - Diseases of animal origin that can be transmitted to humans, such as Avian Influenza, Rabies, Rift Valley fever and Brucellosis, pose worldwide risks to public health. Other diseases which are mainly transmitted from person to person may also circulate in animals or have an animal reservoir, and sometimes cause serious health emergencies, such as the recent epidemic of Ebola virus disease. These risks tend to increase with globalization, climate change and human behavioral change, giving disease causing micro-organisms numerous opportunities to colonize new territories and evolve into new forms.

Controlling zoonotic pathogens at their animal source is the most cost-effective way of protecting people. These should be coordinated at the human–animal–ecosystems interface with several sectors and disciplines working together. They should then be applied at the national, regional and global levels, through the implementation of appropriate policies.

Kenya is one of the countries implementing the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) component of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded program “Supporting Global Health Security Agenda to address Zoonotic Disease and Animal Health in Africa”. It aims to build and strengthen capacity to prevent, detect and respond rapidly to priority zoonotic diseases. The country has conducted a systematic prioritization of zoonotic diseases and developed a ranked list of these diseases that would guide allocation of resources to enhance their surveillance, prevention, and control using a semi-quantitative One Health Zoonotic Disease Prioritization tool developed by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As part of ongoing capacity development, FAO has recently supported the Ministries of Agriculture, Health and Environment through the Zoonotic Disease Unit (ZDU) to review and update National Guidelines for Investigation of Zoonotic Events. The existing draft outbreak investigation guidelines were developed in 2013 by a multi-disciplinary working group coordinated by the Zoonotic Disease Unit. These guidelines aim to facilitate multi-agency collaborative working arrangements, clarify roles and responsibilities of different organizations and to provide coordination mechanisms on the management of zoonotic disease outbreaks. The guidelines outline how best the different disciplines should work together in different situations,  for  example  through  routine  information  sharing,  formal  liaison  and  joint outbreak investigations. This would ensure a harmonized and coordinated approach that is in line with the country’s five year GHSA road map, International Health Regulations (IHR 2005 core capacities) and implementation of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Performance of Veterinary Services (PVS).

A stakeholder’s review workshop was held in Nakuru from June 6-8, 2017 to review and update the developed guidelines. The workshop was jointly organized by FAO Kenya’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) and the Ministries responsible for Health, Agriculture and the Environment, and the Zoonotic Disease Unit (ZDU). Twenty five participants attended the workshop and were drawn from the Ministries of Health, Agriculture and Environment, Preparedness and Response (P & R), One Health Workforce (OHW), the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kenya (CDC), the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Washington State University (WSU).

The representatives of the Directors of Veterinary (DVS) and Medical Services (DMS) made opening remarks where they both underscored the role of surveillance in prevention and control of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases including zoonoses. They expressed gratitude to USAID, other partners and the FAO for their continued support in strengthening capacity to address priority zoonotic diseases control. The representatives also highlighted the importance of embracing a One Health Approach to ensure better prevention and control of zoonoses in the country.