Устойчивое производство продовольствия и ведение сельского хозяйства

Preventing the next global pandemic: sustainability and the One Health approach

31 July 2020

As countries across the globe are tackling the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that our approach to food production and, more generally, our relationship with natural and human-modified ecosystems will be fundamental in preventing the next pandemic – as will the global community’s ability to safeguard human, animal and environmental health.

The majority of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) are zoonotic, which means they originated from animals before spilling over to humans. Although only human to human transmission has been documented to date, COVID-19 is suspected to be one such disease, alongside severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Ebola and AIDS.

The dangers of ecosystem disruption

While a deeper understanding of the connection between humans and animals is essential in addressing the threat of EIDs, the challenge is much broader, and must encompass the environment, biodiversity and ecosystems, including our relationship to them. 

One of the factors driving the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases is, in fact, the degradation of natural habitats, as well as the wholesale loss of biodiversity and animal life – a staggering 60 percent of all terrestrial and aquatic wildlife has been lost over the past half a century.

Changes in land cover and land use, particularly deforestation and forest fragmentation, urbanisation and agricultural intensification are increasingly recognised as major drivers of EIDs. 

Unsustainable practices in the areas of agriculture and food production, among others, have led to a reduction in natural habitats or modifications of these ecological systems. One consequence is that a wide variety of species are being forced to live alongside one another, as well as with humans, increasing contact rates among species and the potential for diseases to spill-over and eventually emerge in human populations, either directly from livestock or wildlife, or, from wildlife to an intermediate livestock host, and then to humans. 

In this context, comprehensive and coherent legislation is even more essential, addressing issues including air and water pollution, waste management and wastewater discharge, climate change and the sustainable management of natural resources.

A further threat: AMR

Adding to the global community’s concerns over zoonoses and EIDs, the general overuse of antimicrobial drugs has caused a surge in antimicrobial resistance (AMR), increasing the risk of new diseases, beyond the currently untreatable infections arising from multidrug-resistant pathogens.

Antimicrobials used to treat various bacterial and fungal diseases, or insect infestations in livestock, fish, crops and tree plantations may be the same or similar to those used in humans. Moreover, antimicrobials are still commonly used as growth promoters in livestock production in many countries. Alarmingly, the availability of data related to antimicrobial use across different sectors is still scarce and generally lacking and the implications of these antimicrobials in water, soil and the environment is still being evaluated.

Resistant microbes arising either in humans, animals or the environment may spread among sectors, across borders, and between continents. Each year, 700 000 human deaths are related to antimicrobial resistance.

It is imperative that efforts for building back better after COVID-19 ensure the safe and efficacious use of antimicrobials in agricultural production, with greater focus on specific targeted treatments and the removal of antibiotics as growth promoters to help safeguard our environment.

For more information on AMR, please visit fao.org/antimicrobial-resistance.

A holistic, integrated approach to health

The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need to consider health through a new, broader and more holistic approach – one that recognizes the complex, indivisible links between the health of people, animals, plants and the environment. 

One Health is a collaborative effort between multiple disciplines working together locally, nationally, regionally and globally to promote and ensure the health of humans, wildlife, livestock, fish, the environment, and ecosystems.

Effective implementation of the One Health approach, which must be rooted in inter-sectoral governance mechanisms at the global, regional and national levels, promoting coordinated multidisciplinary responses, has the potential to reduce disease transmission risks and improve health and well-being of all people, plants, wildlife and livestock and fish and the environment. 

FAO in action 

FAO’s response to the threat of EIDs and zoonoses, including the COVID-19 pandemic, is wide-ranging and includes an array of integrated tools to support policy analyses and assess the impact of COVID-19 on food and agriculture, value chains, livelihoods, food prices, food security across the globe.

In this context, FAO works to strengthen inter-disciplinary and cross-sectoral approaches that address not only disease prevention but also biodiversity conservation, climate change, and sustainable development overall.

The Tripartite

The Tripartite, which brings together FAO, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), has been working since 2010 to address risks connected with human, animal and environmental interactions.

The Tripartite is advocating for effective, multi-sectoral collaboration at all levels, and is providing guidance on complex issues facing the international community, including AMR and EIDs. It promotes the One Health approach as an effective tool in preventing the emergence, and limiting the impact of, zoonoses.

New Programme: Preventing the next zoonotic pandemic

As part of FAO’s comprehensive COVID-19 response package, the Organisation has developed a new programme: Strengthening and extending the One Health approach to avert animal-origin pandemics.

Working with its Tripartite partners, the United Nations Environment Programme and others, FAO will:

  • enhance national and international preparedness and performance during emergency response;
  • develop policies for spillover containment through the foresight approach;
  • mainstream a One Health approach in environment and natural resource agencies at every level;
  • improve national capacity to apply an extended One Health approach to prevent and manage spillovers; 
  • support development of comprehensive and coherent legislation, and
  • strengthen policy implementation.

Building back better after COVID-19: the FAO Hand-in-Hand geospatial data platform

FAO’s new Hand-in-Hand geospatial platform features a vast set of data on food, agriculture, socioeconomics, and natural resources to help strengthen evidence-based decision-making in the food and agriculture sectors – as such, it is a valuable tool in the hands of stakeholders and policy-makers to drive recovery and prevention in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The Organisation’s One Health initiatives and activities will be facilitated through the platform by the multisectoral data made available.

The platform is part of FAO's Hand-in-Hand initiative - an evidence-based, country-led and country-owned initiative aimed at accelerating agricultural transformation and sustainable rural development to eradicate poverty (SDG1) and end hunger and all forms of malnutrition (SDG2).

The data platform can be accessed here: data.apps.fao.org.



Emerging infectious diseases: A threat to global health, economy and livelihoods

  • The frequency and economic impact of emerging infectious diseases is on the rise.
  • Nearly three-fourths of emerging infectious diseases – and almost all recent pandemics – are zoonotic, that is they originate in animals, mostly wildlife.
  • As with many other types of human-wildlife conflict, their emergence often involves dynamic interactions among populations of wildlife, livestock and people within environments that are increasingly under pressure due to human activities, especially: 
  1. Human population growth and urbanization, which encroaches into wildlife habitats, drive animal species into marginal environments, and result in direct competition for limited resources and land.
  2. Expansion and intensification of economic activities, such as agriculture (crop and livestock production, aquaculture), fishing, infrastructure development, mining and logging, increase human-wildlife interactions.

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