FAO in Myanmar

FAO supports Myanmar veterinary services with virtual capacity building for a lumpy skin disease risk assessment


Under COVID-19 restrictions, FAO’s Emergency Management Centre for Animal Health provided virtual support to Myanmar to develop its LSD preparedness


In December 2019, after monitoring the development of a lumpy skin disease (LSD) event in South Asia, FAO’s Emergency Management Centre for Animal Health (EMC-AH) activated a specific Incident Coordination Group (ICG) that would focus on LSD. LSD is a disease that affects domestic cattle and Asian water buffalo, with animals presenting noticeable skin nodules as the disease’s name suggests. The economic impact of an LSD outbreak can be substantial, with small-scale farmers suffering the greatest losses. The disease affects cattle production, milk yields, and the overall health of the animal, and control measures may include restrictions on cattle movements and trade, which in turn can have a detrimental effect on the economy of a country. Successful efforts to limit the spread of the disease include large-scale vaccination, which is widely seen as the best approach. Effective vaccines against the disease do exist, and the earlier the intervention, the more minimal the impact of the outbreak.

The LSD ICG serves as a coordination platform through which FAO colleagues and international partners can share updates, provide information and request support relating to this particular animal health disease. EMC-AH holds weekly ICG calls, with a rotating agenda of specific animal health diseases, one of which is LSD. The LSD ICG has been successful in maintaining regular communication with the FAO representation in affected countries, with up-to-date information on countries’ preparedness and response activities being shared with the group by in-country animal health experts.

Information about specific countries in Asia responding to LSD outbreaks was shared with participants of the LSD ICG during regular calls, information which, in turn, kept the FAO Representative in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar up to date on LSD-related activities in the region. In light of the developing outbreak in the region, where Bangladesh and India have become infected with the disease, the Director General of the country’s Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department (LBVD) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation (MOALI) officially requested support from FAO to increase the country’s capacity to assess the risk of a potential LSD outbreak, particularly since it shares borders with Bangladesh and India.

The EMC-AH team quickly took action, working closely with the FAO ECTAD Myanmar team and LBVD veterinary staff. Subject specialists contributed from the FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, and animal health colleagues at FAO headquarters, to develop a custom approach that would guarantee optimal results in a virtual setting. This was a new challenge for EMC-AH, as the Centre typically deploys emergency missions following an official request, with support delivered in country and in person. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, however, the team needed to explore ways to deliver similar support remotely, ensuring active participation by LBVD staff and guarantee effective results.

The objectives of the LSD remote intervention were to:

  • Prepare and carry out a remote qualitative risk assessment workshop to support preparedness efforts towards the threat of LSD incursion.
  • Remotely support veterinary services in assessing the risk-based measures needed to be implemented with the aim of enhancing LSD preparedness and response capacities.

The support was delivered over a three-week period, beginning on 24 June 2020, with five intensive interactive sessions followed remotely by veterinarians from LBVD. EMC-AH emergency management experts covered LSD preparedness, prevention and detection. For this type of virtual support, it was essential to pique the interest of the audience and keep them engaged, which was achieved through lively presentations, guided discussions, and question-and-answer sessions. This continued interaction enabled participants to work together to build their own LSD risk assessment.

Key outcomes of the event include the development of a country-specific LSD qualitative risk assessment report by participants, and a mission report drafted by the LSD ICG managers of EMC-AH. The latter, which was written in collaboration with LBVD veterinarians and the FAO country office representatives, lays out reflections on the qualitative risk assessment methodology produced, as well as a clear and concrete plan outlining preparedness actions for Myanmar to implement to avoid disease incursion in the country.

Encouraged by the success of this virtual event, EMC-AH will continue to explore various options for providing remote preparedness support to countries in a collaborative effort to adapt to the limitations imposed by the ongoing global pandemic.

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