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FAO and USDA/APHIS continue building national capacity for emergency management

12 September 2014 - Transboundary Animal Diseases (TADs) pose an increased threat in Africa. The outbreaks of Avian Influenza, Foot and Mouth Disease and Rift valley fever observed in the region, demonstrates the need for FAO to continue building country capacity in preparedness to respond to animal disease emergencies.

Animal diseases including zoonoses in that region continue to emerge or re-emerge and their consequences to a country’s economy and livelihoods can be devastating.

FAO’s Crisis Management Centre – Animal Health (CMC-AH) in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (USDA/APHIS) and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (DAFF) of the Republic of South Africa (RSA) organized a national workshop in Pretoria, South Africa from 25 to 28 August 2014 to improve the country’s capacities for effective preparedness, control and management of animal disease emergencies.

Twenty-six participants gathered including veterinary officials from DAFF, and state veterinary officials from the provinces of Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Western Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Free State, North West and KwaZulu Natal. Government officials involved in animal and veterinary public health, diagnostics, imports and exports, disease surveillance and disease control as well as representatives from the Poultry Disease Management Agency (PDMA) and National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) attended the workshop.

The aim of the workshop was to present FAO’s Good Emergency Management Practice: The essentials (GEMP) manual, and the application of its principles. The GEMP manual offers a set of concepts and guiding principles for veterinary services to increase their preparedness in combating infectious animal diseases.

With the aim of sharing GEMP principles widely the workshop was planned around the following topics:

  • Different phases of emergency disease management;
  • Key elements of preparedness planning;
  • Incident management structure and roles and responsibilities of each command level;
  • Nature of a risk analysis and risk assessment approach;
  • Preparedness and contingency plans and their components;
  • Requirements and challenges for verification of freedom from disease;
  • The role of veterinary services in recovery; and
  • The key elements of an operation manual [Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)].

The four-day workshop was delivered as an interactive participatory forum. Participants gave short presentations followed by group and plenary discussions. They concluded the session by assessing their current general contingency plan and recognizing the need to address some of the gaps. They also assessed RSA’s Notifiable Avian Influenza SOPs and identified the need for a separate detailed and user-friendly document on the SOPs.

Finally, a GEMP-Working Group for RSA was established with three representatives from DAFF, two from each of the nine provinces, one from PDMA and two from NICD. The immediate tasks of the working group are to finalize the national preparedness and contingency plans. Participants were also informed of the existence of a LinkedIn Group “GEMP Network” which is a platform that brings all the past participants together to share their experiences and lessons learned during emergency disease events. Also through that platform FAO shares information on risk communication and early warning for major threats (e.g. EMPRES Watch and EMPRES Focus On). Participants were invited to join the group and to start sharing information.

This is the ninth workshop organized by the CMC-AH since 2011. To date, 199 participants from 27 countries have been trained. The centre hopes to extend this great initiative to different regions, and countries once funding is made available. The next workshop will be held in the Republic of Panama from 13 to 16 September 2014.


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