FAO in Egypt

Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) - Egypt

ECTAD Egypt contributes in supporting animal disease control

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Egypt has established close ties with the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation through the Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD). Since 2006, ECTAD has provided technical support for animal diseases early warning (investigation and response, epidemiological surveillance, and laboratory diagnostic capabilities at the central and field levels).

Main Achievements

FAO ECTAD-Egypt has been working specifically with the General Organization for Veterinary Services (GOVS), the National Laboratory for Quality Control of Poultry Production (NLQP) and Central Laboratory for Evaluation of Veterinary Biologics (CLEVB). AHRI-NLQP and CLEVB are two national laboratories of excellence, which contribute significantly to the diagnosis and control of avian influenza and which could be used more effectively by linking diagnosis with rapid response and monitoring of disease control and vaccine use.

The main activities of this collaboration over the past 12 years specifically include (i) strengthening surveillance systems (passive reporting, community animal health outreach, targeted live bird market reporting, and active surveillance), (ii) improvement of laboratory capacities, (iii) genetic and antigenic characterization of currently circulating viruses, (iv) laboratory- and field-level vaccine effectiveness trials, as well as (v) disease mitigation and policy advice.

Achievement in points

  • Development and sustained implementation of value-chain and risk-based surveillance strategies (Avian Influenza and MERS-CoV). FAO-ECTAD Egypt continues to provide technical and financial assistance to support the implementation of surveillance in Egypt.
  • Laboratory diagnostic capacity for surveillance and research has been considerably enhanced through in country and overseas training, provision of equipment, essential consumables and reagents; approximately 16000 pooled samples have been tested under active, passive, targeted surveillance activities, as well as for vaccine evaluation studies.
  • Policy dialogue and information/knowledge sharing (i) a comprehensive HPAI compensation scheme designed, (ii) Mass AI vaccination policy in the household poultry sector reconsidered, (iii) animal health component of the integrated national AHI plan revised to reflect the endemic HPAI situation in Egypt.
  • Institutional capacity strengthened as faster time to produce confirmatory A/H5N1 diagnosis and outbreak reporting achieved: (i) skilled manpower for HPAI diagnosis made available both centrally and at governorate satellite laboratories; (ii) time of confirmatory diagnosis reduced from several days to less than six hours; (iii) six satellite laboratories in different governorates established and supported to accredited according to international ISO 17025 following international protocols.
  • Establishment and operationalization of district-level epidemiological networks in all Egyptian governorates.
  • Effective laboratory networking established: Laboratory data and genetic material shared on time with all relevant national and international partners, published on GENE BANK.
  • Various types of technical assistance and advice were provided to the General Organization for Veterinary Services (GOVS) to develop sound animal disease control strategies and related instruments (primarily for poultry). For instance, the “Animal health and Livelihood Sustainability Strategy”, a component of the integrated national highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) plans, which reflects the need for longer term risk reduction measure to address endemic A/H5N1 HPAI in Egypt, was developed and approved by MOALR.
  • The “Four-way Linking Taskforce” was established and operationalized. It involves key “One Health” stakeholders from animal (MOALR) and public health (MOHP).
  • FAO promoted functional public-private partnerships and livelihoods in both technical and policy related interventions.
  • Emergency assistance was provided on several occasions to contain outbreaks of high-impact diseases (such as foot-and-mouth disease).

In the face of increasing concerns of emerging pandemic threats (including MERS-CoV, ebola, endemic HPAI, etc.), FAO-ECTAD Egypt, in close consultation with concerned departments of MOALR and other relevant partners, envisaged the implementation of a comprehensive program referred to as EPT-2 (emerging pandemic threat), to consolidate previous FAO/USAID investments in pandemic preparedness and emerging animal diseases focusing on selected strategic areas. The EPT-2 program aims to mitigate the impact of novel high consequence pathogens from animals to humans. These interventions are in line with the current government policies and strategies and will be integrated into the ongoing development actions to ensure the sustainability of the process beyond the project duration.


Despite massive investment in HPAI control and progress made in building institutional capacity in epidemiologic surveillance and laboratory diagnostics, Avian Influenza continue to circulate in all sectors of poultry production.

The reasons for this situation are clearly complex and multi-factorial. Changes in the economy and in the poultry industry since 2011 have had a negative impact on food safety and the capacity of the MOALR to prevent or respond to outbreaks of the disease. With the reduction in control of poultry production nationally, many small farmers have turned to raising poultry for food and income in an unmonitored and uncontrolled farming sector.

Evidence suggests that H5N1 virus is deeply entrenched on such farms and in household flocks. Furthermore, hurdles for implementation of a proper control strategy are still present, such as weak response capacity, weak public-private partnerships, sub-optimal vaccination strategies and low levels of biosecurity in some poultry production sectors.

Lessons learned

  • Long-term sustainable investments in agriculture, health and rural communities is needed. Sustained high-level commitment of frontline ministries and effective coordination between these ministries, are required to be able to overcome this critical situation in the short, medium and long terms.
  • Should benefited from incorporating a community-based strategy in which the frontline ministries advice on the goals, with support from FAO, WHO, OIE and other UN agencies, but communities determine how these goals can be achieved realistically.
  • Long-term restructuring of the poultry sector should be considered. These too need to be part of any control and prevention program with the eventuality that compliance to regulatory frameworks be followed. While this restructuring is long-term, there are potentially substantial benefits in achieving an improved health status of poultry flocks, including high levels of biosecurity and minimisation of the risk of transmission of pathogens through the market chain. Opportunities will arise from the definition of disease-free compartments with the prospects of developing export markets.
  • There is a great need for public sector-private sector partnerships to address emergency disease preparedness, response and recovery efforts and to address disease control strategies including biosecurity, vaccination and surveillance. 

Measures needed

  • This situation requires a high level of vigilance of national stakeholders and international partners acting in the country, including FAO. Firm strategies and policies to address the challenge of the HPAI control in Egypt with new collaborative approaches with partners are needed as the danger of disease threats grows both for public health, livelihood and food security.
  • This situation calls for the MOALR to explore ways to leverage its capabilities and move towards a technical review of previous control measures undertaken and define proper interventions for sustainable control of avian influenza in poultry and thereby to reduce threats to public health, livelihoods, food security, and to the viability of the Egyptian poultry industry.

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