Plateforme des Connaissances Pastorales

Ensuring animal health in Afghanistan - and beyond

12 million animals vaccinated and regional cooperation on disease control increased

30/08/2019 -

“My sheep and goats are my only source of income for my family. We consume their milk and meat and sell what’s left in the market to buy essential household and school items,” says Agha Ma, a female pastoralist in Balkh, Afghanistan.  

“We used to lose a lot of animals to disease every year, but thanks to FAO, we are better herders, and are giving our children and grandchildren better educations than we ever had.”

Ahga Ma is speaking of the TAD or Transboundary Animal Disease Project, supported financially by the government of Japan, which is working to protect Afghanistan’s livestock against two deadly endemic diseases: Peste de Petites Ruminants (PPR) and Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD).

Nearly 30 percent of households in Afghanistan own goats and sheep. Families use their animals as a source of food as well as a source of income. Any threats to these animals can devastate farming families and threaten the food security of pastoral-dependent communities.

To date, FAO has vaccinated 12 million sheep and goats against PPR, and 300 000 cattle saved from FMD in all 34 provinces of the country. As a result, there have been no outbreaks FMD or PPR in the communities where the vaccinations were given. While these vaccinations need repeating, the project made a real difference to the lives of tens of thousands of Afghan farmers who were able to keep larger herds, and consequently generate more income.

A creative approach
Combatting disease is not an easy task in a country with often inaccessible mountainous terrain, porous international borders and a largely illiterate rural population.

FAO staff and over 1 000 community-based animal health workers carried-out routine checkups, vaccinations and raised awareness about the prevention of contagious animal diseases through early treatment – and through the setting-up of outreach booths at local animal markets across the country, and the publication of pictorial brochures aimed at farmers unable to read.

The farmers were also given information on when and where they could source medicines - and during the process their animals were vaccinated against PPR and FMD. Animal health workers also issued vaccination cards for each animal - detailing inoculation history.

Samira, 23, a paravet who has been working with FAO for 18 months and who was trained by government epidemiology staff, travels daily from village to village to vaccinate animals and teach communities about animal diseases. “At first it was difficult because communities didn’t understand or trust vaccinations. Now that they’ve seen the impressive positive results, they happily and readily bring their animals for vaccination,” she says.

FAO also restored and equipped the central livestock diagnostic laboratory in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, with state-of-the-art equipment, a teaching laboratory, storage capacity for 10 million doses of vaccines, and a team of professionals that can swiftly diagnose disease. These professionals train new veterinary students and government epidemiology staff on animal disease surveillance throughout Afghanistan.

Regional problems addressed
While the TAD project has been of enormous help to Afghan farmers, that is not enough. The cross-border movement of sick animals from another country is of great concern. FMD and PPR are endemic in both Afghanistan and neighboring countries such as Iran, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. The TAD project built-up veterinary and disease surveillance capacity across the region. Together, neighboring nations explored new ways to build upon each other’s successes. Pakistan, for example, has more diagnostic capacity than others in the region and offered to share its’ expertise through training.

FAO aims to expand its animal health care services for drought-affected livestock keepers and further improve the productivity of nomadic herders through intensified training on disease surveillance, prevention and increased control of a larger variety of animal diseases.

Healthy animals help people live healthy lives and livelihoods - bringing us closer to a #ZeroHunger world.