Maintaining animal health is a team effort, requiring adequate policy personnel with good vision, veterinary personnel in the field with high awareness, laboratory personnel with required expertise and resources to appropriately process submitted samples and participation of stakeholders who are in constant contact with animals.
In animal health management, it is imperative to detect diseases whenever they occur and more so to do so as early as possible before they spread and cause more harm. However, in many parts of the Greater Horn of Africa (GHoA), the number of veterinary personnel is low making it necessary to involve people in constant contact with animals such as herders, livestock keepers, livestock traders, butchers, truckers, marketers and processors to participate in disease reporting. Often these non-professionals are aware of syndromes in animals such as pneumonia or diarrhoea, but lack the specific disease knowledge that is essential for ensuring that the disease information informs the national surveillance for the transboundary animal diseases (TADs).
Luckily, this lack in specific disease knowledge among such livestock grassroot stakeholders has been addressed by recent developments in the Standard Methods and Procedures in Animal Health Project through the publication of "A Field Manual of Animal Disease by Syndromes" which contains photographs of clinical signs and lesions typical of specific TADs. It is produced using highly durable waterproof paper and spiral binding with colour photographs embedded into plastic pages to allow for easy cleaning with damp cloth in case of filth and to avoid fading. The manual is intended to help all those in contact with animals to recognize certain disease characteristics, and transmit information to responsible veterinary personnel through appropriate means such as mobile phones.
The sooner a transboundary animal disease is confirmed, the easier and cheaper it is to control to the benefit of everyone. By training this community of potential surveillance personnel in recognition of TADs using a system of 'syndromic surveillance' we intend to develop enhanced recognition, early reporting and epidemiological investigation, increased submission of appropriate samples for laboratory confirmatory diagnosis and institution of timely disease control interventions. The main goal is stabilisation of livelihoods all along the livestock production and consumption value chain.
GHoA holds an estimated total livestock population of 438 million, comprising of 148 million cattle, 273 million small ruminants and 17 million camels. The livestock industry in GHoA is of immense importance, especially in the arid and semi-arid lands where, it is the primary source of livelihoods at local level and a main contributor to national GDP. However, production and trade in livestock and livestock products is constrained by transboundary animal diseases, such as such as FMD, PPR, CBPP, CCPP, SGP, CP and LSD, that normally spread rapidly beyond the initial point of outbreak, thereby causing severe negative impact. Apart from causing deaths, TADs reduce productivity in the recovered animals. Moreover, some of the TADs are directly transmitted to humans from animals, leading to major public health implications. To crown it all, TADs are associated with local, national or regional trade restrictions causing major negative impacts, not only to national economies but also to livelihoods and food security of livestock-dependent communities.