12/05/2010 - 

The pest of small ruminants or peste des petits ruminants (PPR) is a highly contagious viral disease of goats and sheep. The PPR virus is a member of the genus Morbillivirus in the family Paramyxoviridae. This disease is characterised by fever, necrotic inflammation of the mouth, enteritis and high mortality (up to 90%).

At one time, PPR was thought to be restricted to Western Africa, but it has since been recognized from the equator line up to the Sahara desert, as well as in Asia and the Middle East. Other nearby areas, such as Southern Africa and Central Asia are under increasing threat of disease dissemination. Given that the disease newly emerged in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in 2006 and that small ruminants are of economic importance to pastoralists in East Africa, the Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), supported a socioeconomic study to understand the livelihood impacts of PPR in the arid and semi-arid lands of Northern Kenya.

The study found that PPR infection resulted in better-off households slipping into poverty, while the poor and very poor became destitute. The estimated livestock asset losses due to PPR range from 65 to 100% in four wealth categories that caused, among other things, shifts in food consumption, food and income sources. The percentage of livestock-derived income losses due to PPR varies between 21 and 99. Although the poor and the very poor categories experienced the highest percentage losses, their inherent risk diversification mechanisms limited risk exposure to 36 and 13% of their total income, respectively. However, in the end, given that animal mortality due to PPR is often very high, most households are unable to maintain a sustainable flock size and will therefore have to leave their pastoralist livelihoods in an environment that supports very little else in terms of livelihoods. In some cases, regrettably, this means an increased long term dependency on food aid and a drain on the national resources.

Since PPR is not a zoonotic disease, it is believed that the disease may be perceived by governments as less relevant and therefore not imperative to control. Disease control activities should be risk-based to ensure spending limited economic resources where impacts are likely to be highest. Furthermore, PPR control could be integrated into other strategies, such as sheep pox and goat pox, or to contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP) to make it attractive and cost-effective.

For its part, FAO will continue to provide member countries with technical assistance and logistical support to national and regional projects, as well as to provide guidance and promote capacity building. There is a growing realization that managing and responding to animal disease risks is increasingly complex, and requires functional multi-sectoral, multidisciplinary and multi-institutional cooperation.

The final report of this study is soon forthcoming. If you wish to receive an electronic copy of the study report, please contact us by E-mail.