Animal health

Supporting the development of stronger animal health systems: FAO’s achievements in 2023



Since its founding in November 2004, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) has partnered with national governments around the world to implement a rigorous programme of animal health activities designed to reduce the risks posed by health threats of animal origin, particularly zoonoses and antimicrobial resistance (AMR). FAO ECTAD works to build the capacities of Members to prevent, detect and respond to high-impact diseases and other health threats, which can severely harm livelihoods, food security and economies. 

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau of Global Health has generously supported FAO ECTAD since its inception. Under the USAID-funded Global Health Security (GHS) Program (2022–2027), FAO, through partnerships with organizations and countries across the globe, aims to protect the world from health emergencies by supporting the development of strong and resilient animal health systems. FAO ECTAD’s work directly supports that goal, given that 60 to 75 percent of emerging infectious disease threats come from animal sources. 

Over the course of 2023, FAO ECTAD significantly expanded its reach, growing from 37 countries at the start of 2022 to 49 Member Nations by the end of 2023. A total of 93 different projects at the national, regional and global levels were implemented throughout the year, addressing critical issues such as AMR, disease outbreaks and capacity building activities that enhance countries’ disease surveillance, reporting and response systems. These projects were made possible thanks to the contributions of FAO ECTAD’s donors, including USAID’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance, the United States of America’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s Fleming Fund, the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Australia, China, Italy, the Republic of Korea, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Office for Project Services and the World Organisation for Animal Health, in addition to USAID’s Bureau of Global Health. FAO ECTAD teams also contributed to six (out of a total of 12) successful FAO project country proposals, which were awarded funding through the World Bank's Pandemic Fund.

In order to create an enabling environment for GHS efforts, FAO ECTAD developed and reviewed 20 national strategies, as well as policies, laws and legal frameworks, in six different countries, strengthening legal support for strong and resilient national public health systems. FAO also conducted nearly 330 trainings in 29 different countries, reaching 7 500 people (25 percent of whom were women), to boost capacities in the application of GHS and One Health approaches. In Uganda, trainees from the FAO In-Service Applied Veterinary Epidemiology Training were able to directly apply the knowledge and skills they acquired in outbreaks of anthrax, foot-and-mouth disease and peste des petits ruminants in the country.

A vital component of this work involves reducing the risk of animal disease outbreaks. FAO ECTAD supported nine countries globally to improve and scale their animal health risk mitigation interventions through improved hygiene, biosafety and biosecurity practices. An initiative in Mali targeting women and youth empowered trainees to prevent and mitigate disease outbreaks with good biosecurity practices at the farm level. In addition, FAO partnered closely with 15 countries to develop and revise their disease surveillance strategies and protocols and supported 120 veterinary laboratories across the world. In Sierra Leone, FAO ECTAD’s support for the country’s national laboratory system led to newly established in-country capacity to test for transboundary animal diseases and priority zoonotic diseases. This represents a significant achievement in improving disease investigation and surveillance capacities in Sierra Leone, as the government now no longer needs to send samples to other countries. FAO also promoted rapid electronic disease reporting by equipping and training partners on the use of its Event Mobile Application
(EMA-i), which generates real-time reports for the FAO EMPRES Global Animal Disease Information System (EMPRES-i).

These efforts all contributed to countries’ capacities to respond to disease outbreaks. Over the course of 2023, FAO assisted in the investigation and response to nearly 250 outbreaks caused by more than 20 different diseases. FAO ECTAD supported the One Health response to an anthrax outbreak in Zambia by forming a multisectoral team to conduct a comprehensive monitoring and surveillance exercise. Once the anthrax outbreak was confirmed through laboratory testing, an extensive vaccination campaign was carried out, reaching nearly 47 000 animals. A total of 50 outbreak investigations or responses were supported by the FAO Global Stockpile for Emergency Animal Diseases, which maintains an inventory of diagnostic testing materials, personal protection equipment and laboratory supplies to facilitate early responses to outbreaks while national authorities organize and roll out a comprehensive response.

From providing state-of-the-art equipment to national veterinary laboratories to training veterinarians, livestock farmers and animal traders on early disease detection, and strengthening institutional leadership and capacity to sustainably manage workforces, FAO ECTAD and its partners played a vital role in safeguarding livelihoods and protecting both human and animal health in 2023. In November 2024, FAO ECTAD will celebrate its 20th anniversary and will continue to expand its global presence, enabling new Member Nations to prevent, detect and respond to critical animal health threats around the world.

Please note: The monitoring and evaluation data reported in this article is preliminary and is subject to changes following the data quality assurance process.