FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Central Asian countries work towards better animal health

An effort to improve animal health in Central Asia that started in March 2019 concluded with 2021. Despite the COVID-19 and related limitations, FAO managed to redesign the project and, whenever possible, move to a virtual format to achieve goals set up at the start.

The most prominent achievement has been the establishment of the Central Asia Animal Health Network (CAAHN) and the completion of several assessment missions that have helped beneficiary countries define necessary actions for better institutional frameworks and processes related to animal health.

“The past two years have been challenging for all of us, but we have successfully adapted to the new situation and continued to effectively support the beneficiary countries,” said Daniel Beltrán-Alcrudo, FAO technical advisor on animal health.

To this end, the regional network, launched in November 2019 in Uzbekistan, offers a framework to facilitate the exchange of information and experience, standardize procedures, harmonize policies, and identify and fulfill gaps, weaknesses, and priorities. At the Network's first meeting, the five Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan), jointly with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), established epidemiology and laboratory action plans and networks of focal points, and prioritized work on neglected zoonoses (diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans), such as brucellosis, echinococcosis, anthrax, or tuberculosis, highlighting the need for a One Health approach.

A second CAAHN meeting took place in December 2021 in Kazakhstan, this time bringing together not only chief veterinary officers and epidemiology and laboratory focal points of Central Asian countries, but also all major international players in the region. This workshop offered an excellent opportunity for countries and participating international agencies to map and discuss main activities, initiatives, and priorities related to animal health and One Health in Central Asia. More specifically, issues related to training and data-sharing needs and the sustainability of the Network were discussed in depth. Another major step, considering the focus on One Health, was for the World Health Organization (WHO) to join CAAHN as a permanent member and to include national public health agencies through a network of focal points. 

“The Network is meant to act as an umbrella initiative to streamline, coordinate, and avoid the overlapping of initiatives and projects by international agencies and countries,” Beltrán-Alcrudo added.

Mapping capacities and gaps

In the meantime, a series of missions took place to assess countries’ surveillance and laboratory capacities, thus defining the capacities, challenges, and gaps to be addressed through future initiatives. Specifically, two-week assessments of the surveillance capacities of the veterinary services were conducted using FAO’s Surveillance Evaluation Tool in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. In parallel, laboratory diagnostic capacities were assessed through FAO’s Laboratory Mapping Tool (LMT) in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Specifically on brucellosis, the number one animal disease priority for the region, a workshop in November 2019 in Uzbekistan helped countries’ map their progress towards the control and eradication of the disease. A network of country focal points, both from animal and public health, was established with the first task to share brucellosis data (occurrence in humans, animals, and vaccination) on a quarterly basis. FAO organized discussions on data sharing and established an online platform to share and visualize such data online. An international brucellosis expert visited Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan with the objectives of conducting training, identifying challenges and gaps, and discussing action plans and strategies. Finally, a regional workshop training on brucellosis laboratory diagnosis was organized in December 2021 in Kyrgyzstan.

Related to other neglected zoonoses, also prioritized by the Network, a series of FAO–OIE–WHO Tripartite leaflets on six neglected zoonoses were published in Russian. Moreover, a One Health project on echinococcosis was piloted in Kazakhstan aiming at reducing the incidence of the disease in small ruminants, dogs, and humans. Finally, an online training on laboratory diagnosis for poultry diseases was organized.

12 January 2022, Budapest, Hungary