Reducing the impact of transboundary animal diseases and zoonoses on livelihoods and public health in Africa.
To catalyse the management of TADs and zoonoses in Africa by facilitating the development and implementation of a continental agenda for improved governance of veterinary services.
1. The context
Africa suffers a huge burden of endemic TADs and zoonoses which represent a constant threat, both for the continent and for the rest of the world. TADs are of significant economic, trade and/ or food security importance for a considerable number of countries and can spread easily to reach epidemic or even pandemic proportions. Effective management of TADs and zoonoses requires cooperation among countries: veterinary services for these purposes are therefore an international public good. The economic, trade and food security importance of TADs and zoonoses relate to mortality and morbidity of livestock, costs of treatment and implementation of disease control measures, loss of market access, reduced product quality and shortage of valuable animal products. Furthermore, some TADs and zoonoses directly impact on public health through infection of humans, and indirectly through the food supply chain.
The intensification of food production and the increased volume and speed of international travel and transportation of people, animals and animal products favour transmission of TADs. Changing land-use systems and climate change have produced conditions favourable to the emergence and transmission of infectious animal diseases, of which zoonoses represent a dominant part. Holistic approaches are therefore needed for effective prevention and progressive control of these diseases.
2. Main challenges
A majority of national veterinary and public health services in Africa are grossly underfunded and weak. In particular, epidemiological surveillance and laboratory diagnostic capacities are wanting and therefore unable to generate reliable and timely information needed for evidence-based advocacy, development of control strategies and decision making on investment options for effective functioning of veterinary services. Furthermore, many of the veterinary services lack early warning and response mechanisms for disease epidemics and other animal health-related emergencies. Even where these are
available, mechanisms for transboundary (regional) collaboration necessary for underpinning TADs control are lacking. The public good nature of prevention and control of TADs calls for collectively agreed, adequately funded, well managed and regionally coordinated approaches. The national systems are also critically isolated from functional networks through which they could access external support and expertise. For a vast majority of the national services, the workforce is aging and/or has insufficient or outmoded skills.
While advances in science and technology have provided some of the needed tools, increased movement of people and goods have facilitated the spread and re-emergence of diseases. These developments strengthen the case for continued engagement by AU-IBAR in TADs, although the changing diseases as well as institutional environments call for a different approach. Specifically,the challenges are how to:
- Design cost-effective and technically sound animal disease control measures.
- Strengthen intra- and inter-regional cooperation.
- Enhance the capacity of RECs and Member States for both national action and for participation in collective efforts. Special attention is needed for countries with special needs or during emergencies, e.g. civil conflicts and disease epidemics.
- Create partnerships that ensure effective synergies, especially with international organizations with key normative roles in developing standards and policies for the prevention, control and eradication of TADs and zoonoses.
- Use the existing scientific knowledge and generate new data to develop systems for anticipating, preventing and controlling changes in the distribution and/or intensity of certain climate change-associated TADs and zoonoses, such as Rift Valley fever (RVF) and other potential disease outbreaks.
- Spearhead and coordinate a continental platform in the context of 'One World One Health' (OWOH)6 in order to address effectively the issue of zoonotic diseases.
- Improve vertical and horizontal coordination of the control of TADs and zoonoses based on mutual reinforcement and the principle of subsidiarity.
- Mobilize domestic and international resources for the control of TADs and zoonoses, including devising acceptable cost-sharing arrangements among the various stakeholders.
The liberalization of international trade, with the formalization of sanitary rules under the WTO Agreement on the Application of SPS Measures, has created additional pressure for countries to be able to demonstrate that they have an effective veterinary service capable of monitoring and reporting livestock disease status. There is, therefore, an increasing global interest in improving veterinary services in developing countries in order to improve the control of TADs at par with the developed world. The trend in recent years for governments to decentralize and privatize many services has had particular implications for the control of TADs, for which a solid line of command needs to be maintained between the central veterinary authorities and operational field staff. In addition, while quality veterinary services are essential for TADs control and eradication, it is increasingly recognized that, with appropriate levels of backstopping, community-based animal health (CAH) delivery systems in remote, under-serviced areas can be key means of strengthening the veterinary services in most of Africa.
4. Key Results Areas
Animal diseases pose the greatest immediate threat when they occur as epidemics or when they are emerging in ecologically favourable environments, with few natural factors to limit their spread and no local skills and experience to manage them. In these instances economic losses can be considerable and marginalised communities can be most severely affected. The control of TADs is an international public good that calls for regional and international cooperation as efforts by Member States acting alone cannot be effective. Moreover,ensuring multi-stakeholder and multi-country collective action is a challenge as often the parties involved have different perspectives, incentives and operational capacities for participation. In order to reduce the impact of TADs and zoonoses on livelihoods and public health, AU-IBAR will spearhead the development, coordination and implementation of measures to improve veterinary services in Africa under the following key result areas:
- Improved veterinary governance (policy and legislative frameworks, human and financial resources, physical infrastructure).
- Improved prevention, control and eradication of major TADs and zoonoses.
- Enhanced cooperation between veterinary and public health services.
- Improved knowledge on the epidemiology and control of TADs and zoonoses.
- Enhanced capacity for animal disease control feasibility studies.
Outcomes and impacts
Improvement in overall veterinary governance underpinned by capacity building in epidemiological surveillance, risk and socioeconomic analysis and laboratory diagnosis; enhanced information gathering, management, sharing and networking; and better understanding of the changing patterns of animal diseases would guarantee holistic approaches in the design of disease prevention and control strategies. Such all-inclusive strategies, when implemented in
a well coordinated manner, would effectively reduce the occurrence of TADs and zoonoses and concurrently assure rapid responses. In the long run, these efforts would improve national and regional economies and food security, protect livelihoods, ensure food safety and minimize the risk to human health.
5. AU-IBAR's roles and strategies to achieve desired goals
AU-IBAR is mandated with the coordination of animal resources functions at continental level. This entails liaison with international organizations in all aspects of its mandate and coordination and harmonization of strategies through and between RECs. AU-IBAR also plays a key role in capacity building and provision of technical support, knowledge and expert analyses to Member States. In addition, the role played by AU-IBAR in resource mobilization and advocacy to support the control of TADs and zoonoses have demonstrated the value of AU-IBAR in continental control and eradication programmes. In order to consolidate and further strengthen these roles, AU-IBAR will pursue the following strategies:
- Develop modalities for more effective partnership with Member States and RECs, e.g. through identification of focal points at REC and national levels.
- Spearhead the coordination of zoonoses prevention and control through advocacy and strategic investments in capacity building and integrated (joint) programming.
- Build its own capacity to be able to better support Member States and RECs in their efforts to build institutional, technical and human resource capacities.
- Create effective partnerships with international organizations with normative roles and functions in animal and public health.
- Prioritise and categorize diseases and disease control interventions, using internationally recognized scientific tools to embrace an integrated multiple-disease approach.
- Establish effective institutional mechanisms for the collection of animal health information (from countries using standard protocols on a regular basis and also during emergency situations) and subsequent collation, synthesis and dissemination for use by key stakeholders.
- Establish a continental mechanism for disease early warning and emergency response for diseases with epidemic/pandemic potential, such as RVF and avian influenza (AI).
- Spearhead a coordinated approach to the training of veterinarians, including continuing education, minimum standards setting and re-tooling, for effective delivery of related animal and public health services, and strengthening institutional mechanisms for better coordinated execution of animal health mandates at national and REC levels.
- Facilitate the engagement of private sector actors in TADs prevention and control through private-public partnership strategies that are appropriate for specific local contexts.