Fight and control of Transboundary Animal Diseases in the Mediterranean

(By Juan Lubroth, Chief Veterinary Officer of the Organization of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization - FAO)

The city of Zaragoza host, on Friday 30 April 2010, the second meeting of the Joint Permanent Committee of the Mediterranean Network for Animal Health (REMESA), an initiative of the Veterinary Services of the ten member countries of the network that aims to strengthen cooperation in animal health between countries on both shores of the Mediterranean.

The network, consisting of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, aims to consolidate existing systems of coordination and harmonization of health control measures among member countries since they share similar risks. In particular, the point is to optimize their mechanisms for health information, epidemiological surveillance and prevention and control of main Transboundary Animal Diseases in the Mediterranean region, in order to improve animal health and consumer protection and also ensure booming trade.

The diseases having more impact within the region are FMD, bluetongue, sheep and goat pox and peste des petits ruminants, in terms of which are fully relevant to animal health. On the other hand, rabies, Rift Valley fever or Avian Influenza H5N1 are the diseases that directly affect both animals and humans.

The Mediterranean Network of Animal Health is also in line with integration and neighbourhood current policies promoted by the EU as the Union for the Mediterranean, whose headquarters has been recently opened in Barcelona and is a guarantee of future sustainability for the network.

The meeting in Zaragoza, organized in collaboration with the Directorate General of Primary Production Health Department of the Ministry of Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs, in parallel with the meeting of Mediterranean Chiefs Veterinary Officers (CVOs) held at the headquarters of the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute, served to discuss the progress and work development of the network and was a major impulse for his consolidation.

This network involves the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Organization (FAO), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), specialized international agencies, as well as the European Union (EU) and Arab Maghreb Union (UMA), both institutions as observers. In 2009, REMESA became operational thanks to the support of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), as the result of the experience of a similar project implemented by FAO in North Africa related to the strengthening of surveillance systems and control of highly pathogenic avian influenza.