14/07/2022 - 

Small ruminants play a key role in supporting livelihoods, child nutrition and enabling resilience to climate change. About 300 million families worldwide, from the warm Sahel to the cold Mongolian plains, rely on sheep and goats as a source of food and income. Animal products from ruminants, such as cheese, fibre, meat, milk, skin and wool, are often used for socio-cultural reasons, as well as for subsistence.

However one major threat to small ruminant health, and the socio-economic roles they play, is Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR), a highly contagious and devastating disease present in 67 countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Although PPR does not infect people, it can cause 30-70 percent fatality rates in domestic, wild and sometimes endangered, small ruminants.

It is estimated that PPR causes economic losses of up to USD 2.1 billion globally per year. Due to its dire impact on many aspects of people’s lives, the importance of eradicating this deadly disease was highlighted by QU Dongyu, FAO Director General, at the Permanent Representatives friends of PPR meeting held on 10th December 2021.

QU Dongyu emphasized “The control and eradication of PPR will contribute significantly to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, the 4 Betters and a more resilient agri-food system. We need to work closely together to escalate our efforts to achieve this goal.”

The road to eradicating PPR

While the global community has been relentlessly dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 over the past two years, it did not stop FAO and Members in safeguarding animal health and people’s livelihoods from PPR.

“Throughout the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts of the Joint FAO/OIE PPR Global Secretariat, of countries and partner organizations in the PPR GEP has continued,” said Maria Helena Semedo, the FAO Deputy Director-General at the meeting of the Permanent Representatives friends of PPR.

She added “Indeed, commitment remains at the highest levels, as seen by the adoption of a resolution on PPR global eradication by 2030 at the 42nd Session of the FAO Conference. During several fora, an appeal was made to support the funding needed to finance priority actions of the PPR GEP.”

Since 2020, FAO has managed to support vulnerable communities, disbursing over 50 million doses of PPR vaccine and 110 000 diagnostic kits to countries. Assessments carried out using these kits after vaccination campaigns in several countries show over 70 percent immunity rate. Over 600 front line veterinarians have been trained in PPR control in 17 countries and around 5 000 copies of manuals and guidelines were produced and distributed to more than 10 000 veterinarians and para-veterinarians. Moreover, the capacity of PPR vaccine production laboratories has been increased at least 5-fold. Vaccine production laboratories are now able to supply neighboring countries as well as meet national demands and produce the 1.5 billion doses of vaccines needed for PPR eradication.

In addition to the equipment and training provided, FAO continued to build strong partnerships with many key global stakeholders such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for technology transfer, the International Livestock Research Institute and the Wildlife Conservation Society. At the national level, FAO is supporting the implementation of National Strategic Plans in countries for surveillance, vaccination, capacity building, awareness creation, partnerships and coordination, among others.

Major Challenges for Action

“Whilst major achievements were made during these years, insufficient funding, inconsistent vaccine procurement and usage follow by post-vaccination sero-monitoring, inadequate epidemiological and laboratory capacities, weak cross-border collaboration among some countries and uncontrolled animal movement and animal identification are major challenges that need to be addressed for PPR free world by 2030” said FAO’s PPR Programme Coordinator and veterinarian, Felix Njeumi, at the meeting of the Permanent Representatives friends of PPR.

The PPR vaccine stock/bank established by FAO, OIE, and partners have improved the quality assurance and supply of vaccines. However, to achieve PPR eradication, the funding gap for vaccination campaigns and other programme activities must be filled.

The first phase of the PPR Global Eradication Programme (PPR GEP) was budgeted at USD 996.4 million, and member countries have themselves contributed over 70 percent of the resources mobilized until today. The second phase of the program will start in later in 2022 for next five years and currently there has been strong support from many development partners.

PPR eradication - a public good and legacy for future generations

If achieved, PPR would be the third disease in history to be eradicated, after smallpox and rinderpest.

“FAO also stresses the need for strengthening the one health approach through best use of prevention and control measures to be coordinated between neighboring countries to restrict usage of antibiotics to prevent other small ruminant similar diseases. In doing so, PPR can be the next animal disease to eradicate on the planet” said FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer Keith Sumption.