FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory operates again after immense destruction in Aleppo

Aleppo - 25 May 2021: A fully restored animal health diagnostic laboratory in Aleppo city is set to play a major part in strengthening Syria’s animal production and disease control/prevention capacity; ultimately, it will help protect herders’ livelihoods and secure them with a source of food and income. This has been achieved by FAO, with the generous support of the Russian Federation, which enabled rehabilitation works on the damaged laboratory, in addition to the provision of modern equipment and tools to resume its scientific research and other activities.

In representation of the Russian Ambassador in the Syrian Arab Republic, H.E. ALEXANDER EFIMOV, and in attendance of H.E. Hassan Qatana, Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, and FAO Representation, a launch ceremony for the Animal Health Laboratory took place on 23 May 2021, to announce the resumption of veterinary. The laboratory will directly benefit more than 20 000 herders, helping to protect their animal assets, and boosting production.

H.E. ALEXANDER EFIMOV, stated in his speech letter that the restoration of the Animal Health Laboratory is an outstanding attainment. “In addition to the rehabilitation works on the damaged facility, it has been provided with modern equipment, tools and consumables, and its staff received necessary training to resume veterinary services and scientific research,”

He also pointed to the fact that these vital tasks have been completed regardless of the harsh conditions of global COVID-19 pandemic. 

Mike Robson, FAO’s Representative in the Syrian Arab Republic, said that the operating laboratory would ease the herders’ access to accredited veterinary services after years being unable to do so.

“The operating laboratory is essential to protect the animal health situation in the country, and can minimize the impact of outbreaks of disease. This will eventually protect and enhance the livestock situation in Syria, and benefit neighbouring countries as well,” he added.

Why is the animal health laboratory important for herders?

The Animal Health Laboratory responds to the need of easing vulnerable farmers’ access to animal diagnostic services. The crisis in Syria has put herders in the risky position of treating their animals with sometimes unreliable veterinary drugs sold in the open market, and without the benefit of correct diagnosis.  The absence of affordable and targeted treatments has resulted in worsening animal health, whether from endemic or transboundary diseases affecting cattle, poultry, goat and sheep.  

With the laboratory now operational, herders in Aleppo governorate and neighbouring areas will have access to veterinary diagnoses services, consultation and reports that will help them determine the suitable medicine for their animals. The expectations indicate that more than 100 000 indirect family members of the livestock owners will benefit from the services offered by the laboratory.

Reviving Technical Skills

While the conflict in Aleppo damaged the facilities of the laboratory, more damage was sustained due to the loss of skilled staff. With the up-to-date equipment installed in the laboratory, FAO has trained a small number of specialists on the latest scientific techniques to make best use of the laboratory’s facilities.

Further training topics have included diseases diagnosis techniques and analysis, with courses run by the Damascus Central Animal Health Laboratory experts and aligned with FAO’s best technical practices.

A better livestock production for the people

In addition to tackling animal health, FAO and MAAR, with the Russian Federation support, are working together to secure and carefully handle quality semen straws for artificial insemination of more than 9 000 cattle, with the installation of a liquid nitrogen production line for semen straws storage.

The locally produced liquid nitrogen will meet the needs of veterinarians to safely transport semen straws to remote areas, protecting its quality and effectiveness from damage.

“The enhancement of the agriculture sector evolves around the availability of the needed tools and equipment. With such integrated interventions, the farmers and herders will be able to stand for themselves and become self-resilient through accessing sustainable sources of food and income,” stated Mike Robson.