The free movement of goods and people within the Mediterranean Region represents a risk factor in terms of epidemiology of transboundary animal diseases. Hence it is crucial to harmonize and strengthen the epidemio-surveillance of these diseases at the regional level.

Among the set of principles of the GF-TADs approach for combating HPAI/TADs, timely early warning and disease intelligence, based on reliable, consistent and transparent information sharing, are central to detect and report outbreaks before they become widespread, and tracking potentially dangerous genetic changes of the virus. Lessons learned from a disease event in one country can be invaluable for other countries’ preparedness to respond to the same disease. However, this can only be accomplished when a reliable and transparent exchange of disease information among countries and collaborative efforts throughout all fields of prevention and control are in place. Therefore, a regional approach for control and prevention of the disease appears imperative. This requires networking of veterinary epidemiology teams at many levels from field to central/national, regional and even global level. Recent outbreaks of transboundary animal diseases such as Peste des Petits Ruminants, in Morocco, or repeated occurrences of zoonoses such as Rift Valley fever in Eastern Africa (and its potential spread to other regions) highlighted the same needs for coordinated regional action.

The Veterinary Epidemio-surveillance Network (REPIVET) is a regional initiative to interlink national epidemio-surveillance networks within the Mediterranean region and under REMESA (Mediterranean Animal Health Network). Its establishment, activities and technical monitoring are supported by FAO-ECTAD Unit for North Africa and OIE in the framework of the Regional Animal Health Centre for North Africa (FAO-OIE/RAHC-NA) in consultation with member countries, the UMA and the EU.

The core functions of REPIVET in each region should be to act as a forum for national epidemiologists and experts; to review and advise on animal diseases national surveillance system, response and control programmes; to analyse regional and international disease trends and to provide early warning to National Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs) and policy makers; to define disease control, preparedness and response strategies as well as identification of areas for project intervention. At the national level, epidemiology networks operations should be part of the normative functions of any national veterinary service. After identifying a set of priority diseases in agreement with the national CVOs, each regional epidemiological network should define a categorisation system that addresses surveillance as part of disease management strategy. This should include identification of diseases whose surveillance and control could serve as main drivers for network activities.

REPIVET will develop its activities in close collaboration with the Animal Health Laboratories Network (RELABSA), monitored and facilitated by FAO-ECTAD Unit for North Africa along with OIE in the framework of the Regional Animal Health Centre for North Africa (FAO-OIE/RAHC-NA). The cooperation of these two networks will be instrumental for enhancing epidemio-surveillance activities and to strengthen the links with the diagnostic laboratory.