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The disease

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is one of the most contagious animal diseases and a typical transboundary disease with regional and global dimensions. Its transboundary nature is becoming increasingly important because of the rapid development of international trade in animals and animal products and the increase of people movements worldwide. The disease affects all cloven-hoofed animals, both domesticated and wild. The main reservoirs of the virus are buffalo and cattle.

Countries and regions that are free of FMD are continuously threatened by the presence of the disease elsewhere. FMD outbreaks occurring in previously FMD-free countries and regions always cause very serious socio-economic damage, with quotations of billions of dollars rather than millions. This makes FMD a major obstacle to the ever increasing global trade in animals and animal products.

However, FMD is much more than a disease affecting global trade and threatening FMD-free countries. The consequences of FMD in developing countries are often underestimated. In regions where FMD is still endemic, the disease has a strong negative impact on animal production. This is caused by the cumulative effect of: (i) mortality in new-born animals (in particular lambs, goat kids and piglets); (ii) the significantly lowered milk production of cows, buffaloes, goats and sheep; and (iii) the absence of weight gains in fattening animals. Furthermore, FMD prevents traction animals from working in the field or providing transportation. In developing countries this may result in diminished agricultural production and thus threaten food security at the household level.
FMD-affected countries are excluded from lucrative export markets and the disease has a negative effect on local and regional trade in food of animal origin.
As a result, economic development of small-scale rural farmers, as well as of organized production chains serving urban markets, is inhibited.


Today FMD is widespread throughout the world, particularly in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. At the end of January 2012, out of the 178 member states of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), 97 have no official status, 66 are recognized as FMD-free (65 without vaccination, 1 with vaccination) and 10 countries have zones that are recognized as FMD-free (6 without vaccination, 1 with vaccination and 3 having zones free with and without vaccination). 5 countries do have an official status that is currently suspended. North America and the majority of South America, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand and most island countries in the Pacific are free of the disease.

Global public good

FMD control strategies and tools are considered global public goods as they benefit all countries, all populations and future generations, and countries depend on each other to achieve sustainable progress.
It is recognized that improved control of FMD will also boost control of other major animal diseases, due to improved veterinary infrastructure and animal husbandry practices.


The Global Initiative for FMD control

The first global conference on FMD, ’The way towards global FMD control’, was organized by OIE and FAO in Asuncion, Paraguay in June 2009. The participants of the Conference formulated a set of recommendations and reiterated their strong support for a globally coordinated approach to FMD control. Recommendation 14 called for a pledging conference with the participation of free and affected countries, relevant organizations and donors, to support a global FMD-control programme.

Under the umbrella of the Global Framework for the Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases (GF-TADs), FAO and OIE jointly prepared a draft Global FMD Control Strategy. The strategy will be finalized during 2012 with the participation of relevant regional organizations and experts. The Progressive Control Pathway (PCP) for FMD developed by FAO and OIE, and the Performance of Veterinary Services (PVS) Pathway provided by OIE, are important tools to build and implement the Global FMD Control Strategy. The overall objective of the Global Strategy is to improve animal production and marketing in developing countries and thereby alleviate poverty, increase income generation and improve the livelihoods of small farmers and add to human well being.

The specific objective of the Global Strategy is to decrease the impact of FMD world-wide by reducing the number of outbreaks of the disease and improving animal health. This will require the strengthening of national Veterinary Services and the related infrastructure, including the laboratories, the public-private partnerships and the involvement of the industry. The strengthening of the Veterinary Services and the veterinary infrastructures will, in turn, improve a country’s capability to prevent and control other transboundary diseases and make the progress achieved more sustainable.

Lessons learned from regions with advanced FMD control programmes are incorporated. As demonstrated in several countries and regions, it is possible to control the spread of FMD and, under certain circumstances, to eradicate the disease. Important components of a successful strategy have been identified, including effective  national Veterinary Services, competent diagnostic laboratories, quality-controlled vaccines matching the virus strains prevailing in the region, well-designed epidemio-surveillance systems and well-functioning private-public partnerships. The efforts at national level should be supported and coordinated at regional and global level and backed up by continuous research programmes.

In addition to the core objective of decreasing the impact of FMD, the global FMD control strategy includes two additional objectives, namely: 

  • the strengthening of the Veterinary Services and
  • the improvement of other (transboundary) animal disease control activities..

Experience has shown that better control of FMD requires improved capabilities and infrastructure of national Veterinary Services. Achieving this will improve a country’s capability to prevent and control other (transboundary) animal diseases.
By combining FMD control activities with those of other disease control programmes, economy of scale advantages may be obtained and incentives for owners may be created. Such combinations of disease control activities should be fine-tuned to the regional needs. 

Therefore the overall aim of the Global FMD control Strategy is to reduce the global impact of FMD, but in addition to use the FMD control programme as an entry point to achieve sustainable progress in veterinary systems and spin-off effects in other disease control areas.