Animal health

Disasters and climate change

Climate change has both direct and indirect impacts on agricultural productivity - through changing rainfall patterns, drought, flooding and the geographical redistribution of pests and diseases. Thus, ending hunger, as part of sustainable development, cannot be achieved without tackling climate change. This key synergy is highlighted in FAO’s strategy on climate change, and is echoed in international agreements such as The Paris Agreement and Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture.

FAO’s work on livestock and the environment has made great strides towards making livestock systems more sustainable, productive and resilient through policy, partnerships and strategic guidance. At the nexus between climate change, food security and sustainable development, animal health has an important and often undervalued role to play. FAO publication, Animal Health and Climate Change addresses these issues.

How disasters and climate change affect animal health

A changing climate can have devastating impacts on the health of animals. More frequent extreme climate events such as droughts and floods influence physiological and immune responses in livestock. Climate changes can also affect disease patterns through complex interactions with hosts and vectors, making outbreaks harder to control. For example, facilitating the spread of vector-borne diseases like Rift Valley fever in Africa.

Extreme climate events often cause disruptions to services, infrastructure and food market chains, which can cause overwhelming demand or blockage of supply, this has indirect impacts on animal health. And in a broader sense, animal health is affected by the degradation of biodiversity and ecosystem services which animals rely on. Livelihoods that depend on animals, as well as food and nutrition are becoming less secure as a result.

Certain types of animal diseases can ‘spill over’ to humans - this is particularly relevant in the context of climate change and disasters, as changing environments can lead to increased interaction between people, livestock and wildlife. It is thus important to tackle threats to animal, human and environmental health as part of a coordinated One Health approach. One Health multisectoral approach actively promotes the inclusion of human health and animal health packages in joint efforts, partners’ initiatives and projects aimed at mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Healthy animals can help reduce effects of disasters and climate change

Improving animal health can help to:

  • Reduce the impact of climate change
    Disease surveillance and control help to protect animals from impacts on their health, caused by climate events, changes in disease patterns or other disruptions.
  • Mitigate climate change
    Healthier animals are more productive and generate lower emissions per weight of product.
  • Adapt to climate change
    Animals are more resilient than crops to adapt to marginal conditions and withstand climate shocks.

FAO’s work to strengthen global, regional and national animal health strategies and capacities for disease prevention, detection and response, thus contributes to these goals. FAO GLEAM also works to assess animal health-related opportunities to reduce emissions in the livestock sector. FAO has issued a Call to Action in order to strengthen collaboration and work at the interface of animal health and climate change,  with a view to improving food security while protecting our planet.