The SERECU project was established in 2006 as a specialized project within the larger Pan African Programme for the Control of Epizootics (PACE) to coordinate the final effort to secure World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) accreditation of freedom from rinderpest in the Somali Ecosystem region. As one of the major transboundary animal diseases (TADs) affecting Africa, the eradication of rinderpest is a success story that AU-IBAR will seek to emulate in other projects as it implements the new five-year Strategic Plan 2010-2014.
Rinderpest ('cattle plague') is a deadly viral disease of domestic animals and wildlife. It has most notably afflicted cattle, spreading across sub-Saharan Africa as a pandemic during the 20th century.
The disease has been a serious threat to the livelihoods of millions of Africans and has been the subject of international eradication efforts since the 1940s. The first fully-coordinated mass vaccination programme was known as the Joint Project 15 (JP15) and lasted from 1962-1975. It was followed by the Pan African Rinderpest Campaign (PARC) from 1986-1998, a programme that eradicated rinderpest in many African countries but not in southern Sudan and the Somali Ecosystem (SES). By the end of the project, 17 countries had joined the OIE pathway by declaring at least provisional/zonal freedom from the disease.
PARC was, in turn, succeeded by PACE (1999-2007) which further assisted countries in progressing along the OIE pathway and which eradicated rinderpest from southern Sudan. SERECU was the last in this series of projects and had the specific aim of achieving OIE certification of freedom from rinderpest in the SES.
In 2002, the SES region was suspected of having the last remaining foci of rinderpest in Africa. The SES livestock population represents an epidemiologically homogenous group that moves relatively freely across national boundaries with seasonal migration and trade. Confirmation of SES countries' freedom from rinderpest was the final step in the global eradication of the disease.
SERECU II components
Animal disease early warning / response systems
This component involved developing national Emergency Preparedness Plans (EPP) for rinderpest. An EPP included 'passive' surveillance for rinderpest based on routine reporting by pastoralists and prompt reporting in response to any suspected rinderpest outbreak in livestock or wildlife. This required the national capacity to field sample, transport and test tissue samples to diagnose or refute rinderpest.
Another EPP feature was the availability of trained rapid response teams (RRT) at national level. In the event of rinderpest diagnosis, RRT took coordinated action to contain and stump out the outbreak.
Rinderpest freedom accreditation
SERECU facilitated surveys for proof and verification of absence of rinderpest, leading to the preparation of rinderpest dossiers for the OIE. These dossiers had details of the disease history, control measures developed and results of rinderpest surveillance in each country. The dossiers also included details of national EPP and other measures for safeguarding against rinderpest re-emergence.
Recognizing the importance of communication in rinderpest eradication, SERECU developed a communication strategy to help achieve the project's results and objective.
Based on a survey of knowledge, attitudes and practices of the primary audience (pastoralists and livestock traders), key messages were developed and the best channels/media to reach this audience were identified.
The use of Somali language radio broadcasts was a key SERECU activity in order to reach the ethnic Somali pastoralists and livestock traders that constitute the primary audience for rinderpest eradication communication.