Food Coalition

Expanding country-level One Health collaboration to prevent future pandemics

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is drastically threatening the global economy, health systems as well as disrupting progress in other key development priorities. Zoonotic disease outbreaks over recent decades (ebola, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), etc.) have led to lasting public health and economic impacts. It is acknowledged that the underlying causes of the reported zoonotic outbreaks are the encroachment and degradation of natural ecosystems, leading to increasing contact between humans and animals, particularly wildlife, which is facilitating pathogen spill-over, transmission and persistence at human-livestock-wildlife-environment interfaces.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus was identified as the causative agent of the COVID-19, which was declared a global pandemic in March 2020. The complexity associated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus spill over, and links to wildlife, livestock, food value chains and markets, highlight the need for countries and partners to intensify their efforts in implementing the One Health approach, to effectively prevent the next pandemic.

Significant progress has been made to date on improving One Health capacity in many countries globally. However, it is widely acknowledged that little has been done to reduce the risk of pathogen spill over at the human-livestock-wildlifeecosystem interfaces. Furthermore, the One Health approach calls for improved One Health governance (adequate institutional setting, mainstreaming of One Health policies, identified funding mechanisms, etc.) and implementation (budget allocation, capacity development, One Health emergency interventions, etc.), and little has been done to track progress made to this end. In situations where ministries in charge of forestry, environment or natural resources are part of the One Health platforms or steering committees, they often do not have an equal voice with ministries of public health and agriculture.

It is evident that preventing disease spill over events requires One Health to address the drivers (modifications to natural habitats, changes in agricultural practices and human behaviors) to improve prevention, risk mitigation and risk management. To date, from a global to a national level, the One Health approach is still largely dominated by the public and animal health sectors with significantly less engagement and contribution by the natural resources management professionals working on ecosystems, biodiversity and wildlife. The ministries of forestry, wildlife and natural resource management should play an active role in One Health at country level, supporting country level assessments of One Health programming, and contributing to risk management, particularly as it relates to preventing disease spill-over.

Members countries of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ African Forestry and Wildlife Commission (AFWC) at both the 21st and 22nd Sessions1 held respectively in Dakar in June 2018 and in South Africa in March 2020, have recognized the importance of multi-stakleholder platforms to respond to human-wildlife conflicts and requested FAO to support multisectoral collaboration and continue building capacity on sustainable wildlife management, in particular issues at human-wildlife-livestock-ecosystem interface, by facilitating South–South exchange and organizing additional multistakeholder dialogues. In response to the 21st AFWC session and to facilitate One Health collaboration across relevant sectors and support inclusive national One Health programming and implementation, FAO organized a multisectoral dialogue and learning event to address issues at the human-wildlife-livestock-ecosystem interface (Accra, Ghana, October 2019) with ministries in charge of natural resources, environment, forestry, wildlife, agriculture, livestock and public health of 11 FAO Members and in collaboration with FAO’s AFWC, World Wide Fund for Nature, BirdLife International, West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change Programme, Nature and Development Foundation, National Disaster Management Organisation, Forest Invasive Species Network for Africa, and One Health Central and East Africa.

Participants of the multisectoral dialogue agreed on key messages and prioritized required areas of action2 including the need to strengthen the ecosystem health dimension (such as forest and wildlife health) to effectively address relevant underlying drivers of disease emergence, and the urgeny to enhance the role of ministries of forestry and wildlife in assiting traditional OH stakeholders (ministries of agriculture, veterinary services and public health) to achieve improved health outcomes by supporting sustainable, climate smart, eco-friendly agricultural development. 

Priority Areas of work: One Health Approach - Preventing the next Zoonotic Pandemic
SDG: 1. No Poverty, 2. Zero Hunger, 13. Climate Action, 14. Life Below Water, 15. Life on Land, 17. Partnerships to achieve the Goal
Level: Regional
Region: Africa
Country: Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan
Budget: USD 16 million

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