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22nd Conference of the OIE Regional Commission for Africa

20-24 February 2017
Swakopmund (Namibia)

Regional conference pushes for African countries and regional communities to engage in the worldwide eradication of peste des petits ruminants (PPR).

© OIE/ P. Bastiaensen

Swakopmund, 27 February 2017 - The 22nd Conference of the World Organisation for Animal Health’s (OIE) Regional Commission for Africa, whose composition totals 54 members, was held in Swakopmund, Namibia, from 20 to 24 February 2017.

The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry of Namibia, Hon. John Mutorwa, the Governor of Erongo Region, Hon. Cleophas Mutjavikua and representatives of several local and regional authorities honoured the audience with their presence at the Opening Ceremony, during which, they addressed welcome messages to the participants.

Dr Monique Éloit, OIE Director General thanked the Republic of Namibia for its hospitality. She congratulated the host country and its neighbours in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region, on their achievements in applying OIE standards. Seven out of fifteen countries in the SADC region have attained either country-wide or zonal freedom for one or more animal diseases and many have managed to gain access to the international markets for animal commodities.

With more than 50% of the financial resources of the OIE World Fund allocated to programmes in Africa, such as the assistance provided by Germany to the elimination of rabies in Namibia, the OIE is strongly engaged at your side. In turn, your commitment to the OIE is for us and for the donors, the testimony that you value our work”, Dr. Éloit reaffirmed in her speech.

The event gathered national Delegates and/or their representatives of numerous Member Countries of the OIE Regional Commission for Africa, the President of the OIE and Delegate of South Africa, Dr Michael Botlhe Modisane as well as several high level representatives of the OIE Headquarters and the OIE Regional and Sub-regional Representations for Africa. Representatives of international and regional organisations involved in animal and veterinary public health activities in the region and numerous observers and experts were also present.

The Conference was the occasion to discuss on issues relevant to the region: plenary presentations on the necessary relationship among the various institutional actors, group sessions and panel discussions triggered an important dynamic for this important institutional event.

Dr. Komlan Daniel Batawui, OIE Delegate of Togo and current President of the OIE Regional Commission for Africa, underscored the supporting role that the Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources of the African Union (AU-IBAR) has played in e.g. providing a platform to achieve a common position of African countries at the annual OIE General Session.

The first day ended with a poster session, which gave a great opportunity to introduce the topics of the Conference and initiate discussions among participants.

Participants were provided with detailed information, analyses, and trends on the diseases of greatest concern in Africa, gathered through the OIE World Animal Health Information System (WAHIS), namely rabies, anthrax, foot-and-mouth disease, highly-pathogenic avian influenza and the epizootic ulcerative syndrome, as well as peste des petits ruminants (PPR). The latter was further developed in other sessions of the Conference, notably through the two technical items which were subsequently discussed:

Pastoralism: opportunities for livestock and challenges for Veterinary Services

Enshrined in ancient traditions and based on the mobility of humans and animals, pastoralism remains a fundamental socio-economic activity in Africa particularly in terms of the generation and distribution of income in a rural environment. Indeed, it is reported to involve over 62 million people and over 424 million heads of livestock, including cattle, sheep, goats and camelids.

Despite the implementation of government-led support systems in most of the major livestock producing countries, pastoralism still faces major threats, including precarious sanitary conditions.

Therefore, a considerable effort is needed to strengthen the Veterinary Services, with regard to pastoral livestock systems, notably for the implementation of control programmes for the main animal diseases, such as PPR.

Dr. Modisane pointed to the high relevance of pastoralism, in dealing with Veterinary Services’ delivery and environmental stewardship in the near future. He promised that, as President of the OIE he would “listen attentively and engage with everyone to understand the challenges faced by the region in dealing with issues affecting Veterinary Services and particularly controlling animal diseases”.

Unfolding the global strategy for the control and eradication of PPR in Africa

PPR was first found in Côte d’Ivoire in 1942 and has been reported present for many years in all of Africa except some parts of southern Africa. This virulent and highly contagious transboundary disease, which affects sheep and goats, has serious repercussions on food security, undermining the resilience of smallholder farmers and limiting animal production opportunities and the economic development of countries with an important small ruminant sector.

It is one of the priority diseases indicated in the Global Framework for the Progressive Control of Transboundary Diseases (GF-TADs) and an OIE/FAO Global Strategy for its eradication was adopted in 2015.

This strategy integrates a horizontal vision of animal health problems, focused on strengthening Veterinary Services, with a vertical vision focused on the dual aim of progressive PPR eradication and reducing the prevalence of other priority small ruminant diseases.

Its first implementation phase has already started in Africa, through the drawing-up of regional roadmap meetings in the five regions defined by the strategy. These will contribute to achieve a common regional vision based on exchange, collaboration and coordination in order to monitor and harmonise planned national activities of the countries.

Several key issues involving the Member Countries of the region, with special emphasis on the following matters were also deliberated:

  • The OIE PVS Pathway, with a view to address possible evolutions;
  • Rabies control project in Namibia;
  • The epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease in North Africa in 2014-2015: Example of regional cooperation;
  • The OIE Strategy on Antimicrobial Resistance: contribution of Africa;
  • Climate change and emerging vector-borne diseases: the example of Rift Valley fever in West Africa and Madagascar.

Furthermore, a panel discussion involving several international and regional organisations was organised to address the challenges of international trade of animals and products of animal origin and how to engage all interested parties.

The discussions were fruitful and the recommendations adopted during the Conference will be submitted to the vote of the OIE World Assembly in May 2017.

The Conference was kindly hosted by the Namibian Government.

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