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 Sierra Leone | FAO’s review reveals evidence of previously unconfirmed endemic diseases

Sierra Leone | FAO’s review reveals evidence of previously unconfirmed endemic diseases


FAO conducts an after-action review of Sierra Leone's Integrated Animal Disease Surveillance and Reporting system

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) conducted an after-action review of the Integrated Animal Disease Surveillance and Reporting (IADSR) system on 27 and 28 July 2020 to document successes, identify challenges and lessons learned, and to make recommendations for future improvements. This review gathered together fifty participants including districts livestock officers, surveillance focal points, One Health focal persons from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF), officials from the Central Veterinary Laboratory (CVL) Epidemiology Unit and Wildlife Unit, as well as key policymakers from MAF and FAO. The review was conducted using qualitative and quantitative tools developed by FAO.

FAO’s support to the veterinary surveillance and laboratory system in Sierra Leone  

In 2018, the FAO Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) established an IADSR within MAF with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). To operationalize the IADSR efficiently and effectively, FAO supported the establishment of an epidemiology unit, which was refurbished and equipped with modern electronics and furniture. In addition, FAO refurbished and equipped the CVL at Makeni. All district livestock officers, as well as the CVL, were provided with motorcycles to enhance mobility, to respond to outbreaks and to collect samples for confirmatory diagnosis. Thanks to this support, the CVL is set to become a regional reference laboratory.

The degree of success in supporting the national veterinary laboratory system has been such that, on 28 May 2020, during his address on the occasion of the state opening of parliament the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, H.E Dr Julius Maada Bio, said that the renovation of the CVL is “promoting animal production, which will improve nutrition and provide increased incomes for livestock farmers”.

The output of the IADSR has increased, with improved weekly reporting from the district level and the CVL to the Epidemiology Unit of MAF and the weekly publication of animal health bulletins. To document IADSR’s strengths and successes, identify gaps, challenges and lessons learned, and to make recommendations for future improvements, FAO conducted an after-action review of the surveillance and reporting system. 

Results of the after-action review of the IADSR

The after-action review concluded that the migration from the old traditional paper reporting system to a more user-friendly IADSR improved animal disease reporting from the subnational to national level and provided mechanisms for regular and timely feedback. In addition, FAO support in the establishment of the national wildlife surveillance system as well as the strong partnership with international non-governmental organization TACUGAMA Chimpazee Sanctuary, was a great achievement for the operationalization of the system.

The review also showed that FAO’s support improved technical capacities of the livestock and veterinary personnel through various in-service-trainings on data analysis, laboratory sample management, biosafety and biosecurity in the field, outbreak investigation, Geographical Information System use, the implementation of the FAO Event Mobile Application (EMA-i) as well as risk analysis. 

The review concluded that FAO’s support has strengthened CVL’s capacities, with the laboratory now capable of testing for priority transboundary animal diseases and zoonosis such as peste des petits ruminants, brucellosis, avian influenza, rabies and African swine fever among others. Other outcomes of the review also showed that FAO’s efforts to actively involve the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, as well as other national stakeholders, have contributed to the sustainability of the actions and reinforced 

One Health activities, which unify efforts to safeguard human and animal health. These One Health activities include the presentation of weekly animal health reports, One Health outbreak investigations and communication and sensitization activities carried out by the One Health Platform. The MAF Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer, Sorie Kamara, said that “FAO and USAID have greatly enhanced the capacities of the livestock and veterinary sector, which has led to the discovery of previously unknown diseases in animals. In addition, with this strong system animal diseases will be easily controlled at source, thus limiting their public health and socioeconomic impacts”.

Lastly, the after-action review rated the IADSR in terms of simplicity at 80 percent, sensitivity at 70 percent and flexibility at 70 percent. The system was also rated at 80 percent both in terms of timeliness and completeness.


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