Food Coalition

Strengthening and extending the One Health approach to avert pandemics of animal origin in the region

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, probably originated from an animal source, similar to 60 percent of all human infectious diseases. The pandemic has emphasized the need to prepare for, prevent, detect and respond to diseases at primary spillover level, where a new pandemic is likely to start. Pathogens are most likely to spread in locations where wildlife comes into contact with livestock production, particularly where people earn livelihoods, such as in live animal markets, areas where bushmeat is hunted, traded and consumed, or where growing pressures on natural ecosystems has forced livestock, wildlife and humans into close proximity. As a result, family farmers, especially women and children, are at high risk. Preventing spillover at source and mitigating the emergence and spread of pandemics requires a holistic and participatory One Health approach, involving experts, policymakers and communities in high-risk settings.

The zoonotic nature of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was established long before COVID-19 had evolved into a pandemic. Investigations into potential animal hosts for this and other coronaviruses are pivotal to improve our understanding of COVID-19’s epidemiology, as well as to identify (and minimize) sources for human infection. COVID-19 infection in animals sharing the same space as humans comes as no surprise, given the prevalence of environmental contamination in households with the causative virus. There have been evermore reports of various animal species, including cats, dogs, mink and tigers, becoming infected from humans.

This also poses a risk that new zoonotic reservoirs might be established and prolong the current pandemic, or start a new one. For this reason, the 73rd World Health Assembly resolution on COVID-19 response requested strengthening of the tripartite collaboration on One Health ‒ between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) ‒ to prevent new zoonotic reservoirs from taking hold and to propose targeted interventions to address such pandemics in the future.

A number of European and Central Asian middle-income countries are rapidly reinforcing, upgrading and equipping their medical, veterinary and animal production services, particularly in the Western Balkans and, to some extent, in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus. Across most of the region, however, animal disease control systems are likely insufficient to prevent, detect and respond to endemic and emerging zoonotic diseases (such as brucellosis or vector-borne diseases).

Priority Areas of work: One Health Approach - Preventing the next Zoonotic Pandemic
SDG: 2. Zero Hunger, 3. Good Health and Well-being, 12. Responsible Consumption and Production, 14. Life Below Water, 15. Life on Land
Level: Regional
Region: Europe and Central Asia
Budget: USD 2 million

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