14 November 2014 - International and regional organizations in the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia) are strengthening their collaboration to combat the spread of Rift Valley Fever (RVF), which has caused severe disease in domesticated animals including cattle, sheep, camels and goats in the region since the 1990s. On 17 September 2014, under the aegis of a French Government project, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Vmerge Project, the Office National de Sécurité Sanitaire des Produits Alimentaires (ONSSA) and the Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II met in Rabat, Morocco for a two-day workshop to discuss and consolidate strategies for RVF prevention and control in the Maghreb region.
The key focus of the workshop was the need for increased collaboration and information sharing on RVF surveillance and control amongst stakeholders, from local veterinary services to international organizations. Collaboration among the countries of the region was emphasized throughout the workshop.
Achievements to date include a surveillance and control strategy established by the Veterinary Epidemio-Surveillance Network (REPIVET) of the Mediterranean Animal Health Network (REMESA) which covers the Maghreb region and a training course on diagnosing RVF organized by REMESA’s Animal Health Laboratories Network (RELABSA) in collaboration with Biopharma laboratory.
Participants discussed the RVF communication plan devised by REMESA’s North African Animal Health Communication Network for transboundary animal diseases (RECOMSA) as well as the overview and control strategy of transboundary animal movements in cattle and small ruminants by the Socio-economy Network for Production and Animal Health (RESEPSA).
Working with the latest information on RVF and its clinical and laboratory diagnostics, participants recommended organizing national workshops to increase awareness on RVF, share information on control strategies and implement simulation games for controlling the disease. Participants also raised the need for professional livestock farmer organizations to work together in order to facilitate direct access to information on prevention and control of RVF.
By establishing an inter-ministerial committee on RVF among the Ministries of Health, Veterinary Services and local authorities, countries will be better equipped to respond to disease outbreaks and relate to external collaborative projects like Vmerge, which oversees risk assessment on the introduction of RVF to non-infected countries. Collaboration also needs to increase between Vmerge and REMESA.
The 48 participants, who included experts from REPIVET, RELABSA, the Vmerge Project, FAO and OIE recommended strengthening the capabilities of all stakeholders and encouraging joint working, information exchange and collaboration between countries in the region to combat this widespread disease. Increased cooperation will be instrumental to enhance RVF surveillance and control activities and will set an example for similar strategies being employed in other regions.