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Veterinary Services in Africa strengthen their solidarity by establishing a Regional Representation of the OIE and by seeking common strategies to eliminate animal diseases and improve public health

The 14th Conference of the Regional Commission for Africa of the Office International des Epizooties (OIE), world organisation for animal health, was held in Arusha (Tanzania) from 23 to 26 January 2001.

This Conference, to which the heads of the Veterinary Services of 44 African countries were invited, drew up a full status report on the animal health situation in the region, where the animal diseases of most concern remain peste des petits ruminants, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, Rift Valley fever, bluetongue, foot and mouth disease in ruminants and swine, sheep pox and goat pox, African horse sickness, African swine fever, Newcastle disease in poultry, as well as rabies in domestic and wild animals (see Appendix).

During the Conference, three other subjects were given special attention:

1.The role of para-veterinarians in the delivery of veterinary services in Africa

Veterinary services in many countries in Africa are in general traditionally provided by the State. Structural adjustment combined with new thinking on the role of the State has led to a decrease in funding to many public veterinary services. The quality and availability of public veterinary services have subsequently declined in many countries in Africa.

Para-professionals in the form of para-veterinarians and community based animal health workers (CBAHWs) have long been recognised as a means of increasing the availability and affordability of private animal health services to traditional and small-scale livestock keepers in Africa. This trend is expected to continue, with most countries foreseeing a greater role for para-professionals in the future.

One of the key concerns remains the quality of the services provided by para-professionals and the level of drug misuse that might arise through para-professionals. Most countries are limiting the risks associated with para-professional service delivery by creating legislation that requires para-professionals to operate under the supervision of a veterinarian.

2. Antibiotic resistance, with special reference to poultry production

There is a growing concern that the use of antimicrobial drugs in veterinary medicine and animal husbandry may compromise human health if resistant bacteria develop in animals and are transferred to humans via the food chain or the environment. However, there is still no scientific consensus on the degree to which usage of antibiotics in animals contributes to the development and dissemination of antimicrobial resistance in human bacteria.

All the OIE Member Countries of Africa have significant small-scale poultry farming sectors. The use of antimicrobial drugs for therapy in this sector is minimal and the concomitant selection of resistant bacteria, therefore, of a low magnitude or inexistant. In countries with developed, commercial poultry farming sectors, however, the same concerns relating to the possible spread of resistant bacteria or resistant genes to human bacteria would apply as they do in the Northern Hemisphere.

Monitoring of the quantities of antimicrobials used in animal production is limited to only a few countries. Most countries have administrative procedures for marketing authorisation, but the extent to which it is applied varies markedly between countries.

All countries have identified various combinations of constraints, such as lack of legislation, lack of knowledge, lack of resources and inefficient Veterinary Services as obstacles to the prudent use of antimicrobial drugs.

3. Categorisation of animal diseases

Participants considered the principle of revising the OIE Lists A and B on animal diseases, due to the fact that the current OIE categorisation of Lists A and B has not been reviewed recently and, therefore, shows certain inconsistencies, and the need to concentrate on the importance of the speed of spread of a disease and link this to the reporting procedures.

It was thus recommended that the OIE envisage replacing the current categorisation of animal diseases, including aquatic animal diseases, by a classification of diseases into one list, but with two new categories:

  • animal diseases that require immediate notification (within 24 hours) due to their potential for a rapid spread;
  • animal diseases of periodic notification, at least annually or more often if necessary.

The Recommendations made at the end of this Conference should strengthen cooperation between African states and introduce concrete measures to combat animal diseases and protect public health, both in Africa and throughout the world (see the OIE Web site).

The implementation of the PACE project, under the aegis of the OAU, should also contribute to attaining these objectives.

Following a recommendation made at the 13th OIE Regional Conference for Africa, held in Dakar (Senegal) in January 1999, and in application of a Resolution taken by the OIE International Committee on 27 May 2000, an Agreement on the establishment of an OIE Regional Representation for Africa in Bamako (Mali) was concluded on 17 October 2000. The Representation could contribute significantly to strengthening cooperation and solidarity.

The 15th OIE Regional Conference for Africa is to be held in Mozambique, in January 2003.