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Improvement of veterinary health information in Africa

On 28 February 2000, under the aegis of the Office International des Epizooties, a meeting was held between the representatives of the Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources of the Organisation for African Unity (OAU-IBAR) and the Conference of Agriculture Ministers of West and Central African Countries (CMA-AOC), the main regional organisations representing African countries in animal husbandry matters.

Representatives of countries involved in aid for the development of animal production and international organisations that play an important role in epidemiological surveillance and prophylaxis of epizootic diseases in Africa, also participated in this meeting, which was organised by the Centre for International Cooperation in Agricultural Research for Development (Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement - CIRAD).

At the close of the meeting, the participants signed the following declaration of intent:

"To this day, epizootic diseases remain one of the essential factors restricting the development of animal husbandry in Africa, as they induce heavy direct and indirect losses in national cattle.

Their negative impacts on livestock productivity are numerous: mortality of the animals, weight loss, slow development, decrease in fertility and fecundity, abortions, decrease in work power. The economic losses induced are also due to the costs of the control programmes to be implemented, and to the impact of animal diseases on public health when zoonoses are involved. Furthermore, epizootic diseases are generally transboundary, as live cattle movements are quite frequent in Africa, whether transhumant or nomadic, linked to the search for pastures and water in the dry season or animal transfers from production areas to consumer areas, at times at a great distance.

There are numerous control methods concerning epizootic diseases. However, whether they aim at limiting the impact of the most important cattle diseases on a national territory or a region; protecting a disease-free country or region from the introduction of a new disease, or preventing the emergence or re-emergence of a disease, knowledge of the epidemiological situation remains the cornerstone. Indeed, no control or prophylaxis is possible if the descriptive data (geographical distribution, prevalence, incidence …) or the conditions for dissemination (contagiousness factors) or continuity (carrying, and wild or domestic reservoir) remain unknown. Moreover, no large-scale control programme can be justified or implemented if the costs pertaining to the disease and the cost-benefits of the programme, based on an epidemiological study, are not known.

Surveillance is the key to the early detection of diseases and, hence, early warning of a change in the health status of any livestock population. Epidemiosurveillance should thus be the basis for developing strategies for the progressive control of transboundary animal diseases (i.e. epizootics) and should be an integral part of the national emergency preparedness against such diseases. This principle is especially promoted actively on an international level through the FAO priority programme, EMPRES (Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases).

These preliminary considerations are well-known to all the actors participating in the development of animal husbandry and the protection of cattle and public health, as well known as the tremendous stakes presented by animal production. Their economic importance within the agricultural production of African countries is already quite large, but will expand with the demographic growth, urbanisation and the increasing demand for animal protein. A factor of sustainability in the agricultural system by the income it engenders and the role it plays in the management of natural resources, animal production will have to alleviate poverty, ensure the cities’ supply and play its part as the economic mainspring.

In this context, cattle as a production tool for national requirements and a source of currency in export, should be protected against epizootic diseases. Numerous actions are taken to control epizootic diseases and particularly to improve our knowledge of national epidemiological situations, and to organise this surveillance is one of the priorities of the State and its Veterinary Services.

The part played by the private actors at the production level, by husbandry or trade services, but also in veterinary health surveillance, is equally important. The international community has taken steps to enable the development of trade in animals and animal products, at the same time protecting the importing countries from the introduction of epizootic diseases.

The Office International des Epizooties (OIE) has been designated by the World Trade Organization as the international scientific reference organisation in the implementation of zoosanitary regulations relating to international trade in live animals and products of animal origin. This organisation considers that the zoosanitary information, based on epidemiological surveillance and a system of reliable data collection and analysis, has become an essential part of risk analysis and risk management related to this international trade. The OIE strives together with African countries and their regional organisations, particularly the OAU-IBAR, several international organisations – in particular the FAO and the European Commission, which greatly support the PACE (Panafrican Control of Epizootics) programme of the OAU-IBAR – and multilateral cooperations, such as the World Bank, and bilateral cooperations, including France, for more efficient national and regional epidemiological systems.

The representatives of the Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources of the Organisation for African Unity (OAU-IBAR) and the Conference of Agriculture Ministers of West and Central African Countries (CMA-AOC), the main regional organisations representing African countries in animal husbandry matters, met on 28 February 2000, under the aegis of the Office International des Epizooties. Representatives of countries involved in aid for the development of animal production and international organisations that play an important role in epidemiological surveillance and prophylaxis of epizootic diseases in Africa, also participated in this meeting.

At the close of the meeting, the signatories agreed on a common objective: to continue aid to the Veterinary Services of the Ministries in charge of animal husbandry in African countries, in order to develop more efficient national epidemiological surveillance systems that are better able to control epizootic diseases and deliver the most complete and reliable animal health information. The signatories indeed recognised that this information had become an essential requirement for the development of international trade in live animals and products of animal origin."

Signatories:

Dr Adjoudji Hamadjoda
Minister of Animal Husbandry, Fisheries and
Animal Industries of Cameroon. Representing the Conference of Agriculture Ministers of West and Central African Countries (CMA-AOC)

Dr Jean Blancou
Director General of the Office International des Epizooties (OIE)

Dr Walter N. Masiga
Director of the Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources of the Organisation for African Unity
(OAU-IBAR)

M. Uwe Verblow
Representing the DG Development of the European Union

Dr Yves Cheneau
Head of the Department for Animal Health. Representing the Director General of the Food
and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations (FAO)

Dr Bernard Vallat
Deputy Director General for Food. Representing the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries

M. Bernard Bachelier
Director General of the Centre for International Cooperation in Agricultural Research for
Development (CIRAD)

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