Pastoralist Knowledge Hub

One Health on the move: Nomadic communities

Highlights from a FAO facilitated parallel session at the Prince Mahidol Award Conference 2018

26/02/2018 -

According to the World Organization for Animal Health, nearly 75% of all infectious diseases are zoonotic, that is, spread between animals and humans. Pastoralists fully depend on their animals for their livelihood and income and are at the forefront of the human, livestock and wildlife interface. They are in constant contact with their animals and consume raw meat, milk, and other products making them vulnerable to zoonotic diseases. The 'One Health' approach, where multiple stakeholders work together locally, nationally and globally, has been adopted to attain optimal health for people, animals, and the environment.

A parallel session “One Health on the move: Nomadic Communities,’’ was organized by the Pastoralist Knowledge Hub during the Prince Mahidol Award Conference on February 1, 2018, in Bangkok, Thailand. The panel was composed of representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Iran, Mongolia, and Uganda. The objective was to foster a deeper understanding of the health risks faced by mobile pastoral communities, share examples of interventions and policies that tackle pastoralist's health issues at the animal-human-environmental interface, and promote the participation of pastoral communities in health policy decisions and sanitation campaigns. 

Baldomero Molina Flores of the Pan American Health Organization highlighted brucellosis, zoonotic tuberculosis, glanders, equine encephalitis, hydatidosis/echinococcosis, leishmaniasis, and rabies as the most prevalent zoonotic diseases faced by pastoralists. He proposed that the One Health approach be enhanced through promoting public-private partnerships, improving human and animal health services, and recognizing the added value of pastoralists in disease surveillance.

In the same vein, Lotfi Allal from the FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa listed additional diseases such as foot and mouth disease (FMD), peste des petits ruminants (PPR), contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP), contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP), rift valley fever (RVF), and Middle East respiratory syndrome corona-Virus (Mers-CoV). He indicated that disease prevalence is exacerbated by inadequate access to quality veterinary services for vaccination and treatment. The need to develop disease quarantine stations along the value/market chain; improve both qualitative and quantitative access to water, and the need to improve biosecurity along the pastoralist corridors was proposed.

The misuse of antibiotics for human and animal diseases is a challenge that has led to increased antimicrobial resistance. For instance, the prevalence of tick-borne diseases has become widespread, noted Benon Assimwe from Makerere University, Uganda. He, however, commended the active role of community animal health workers in disease surveillance and treatment in some remote pastoralist communities of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda.

Pastoralists have established beliefs, knowledge, skills, and methods for managing diseases, said María Teresa Alvarez, a pastoralist representative from Redes Chaco Pastorámericas. Thus there is a need for linkages between ethnoveterinary knowledge and scientific advances in human and animal health. Furthermore, she stated that the role played by pastoralist women in addressing human and animal health in the communities should not be overlooked.

The involvement of pastoralists in the animal-human and environmental health policy dialogue was stressed as being important by Taghi Farvar of the Centre for Sustainable Development & Environment in Iran. Regional institutions and policy decision makers must consider the specificities of pastoralists in designing and implementing programs and policies.

Quentin Moreau from Agronomes et Vétérinaires Sans Frontières, Mongolia shared experiences of AVSF in strengthening the resilience of pastoral communities through animal and human health services in Central Asia.

Multisector approaches such as One Health will help to address challenges brought about by human – animal and environmental interface, through providing adapted vaccination campaigns and veterinary services to pastoralists.