FAO boosts capacity of veterinarians in West and Central Africa

FAO, in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD), Texas A&M University, scaled up the skills of veterinarians from seven African countries to better respond to emerging zoonotic diseases in fields and at the cross-border levels.

Zoonotic diseases can spread between animals and jump to humans. With the majority of human pandemics originating in animals, these cross border infectious diseases can threaten West and Central Africa and it calls for effective and timely interventions for early detection and response to avert catastrophic consequences.

Under FAO Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD)’s regional initiative to roll out the training programme “In-Service Applied Veterinary Epidemiology Training (ISAVET)”, Senegal was the first country in West and Central Africa to kick start and equip veterinary officers with the necessary epidemiological skills to fight zoonotic diseases in the region.

This regional initiative launched after several assessments under the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) pointed out significant limitations in veterinary services and national-level capacity to manage zoonotic diseases. Through the ISAVET programme, FAO aims to establish an improved understanding of epidemiology to better control and prevent animal diseases.

Held for the first time in Senegal, the four-month pilot training involved seven West and Central Africa countries and 21 participants. It followed the successes achieved in East Africa, where the first cohort of 26 frontline veterinarians completed Part I of the ISAVET training in Uganda. Targeting 180 veterinarians from 14 African countries, the ISAVET training provided 4 weeks of formal training, followed by 3 months of home-based mentored field projects at trainee duty stations.

Zoonosis and ‘’One Health Approach’’

Prior to the ISAVET training, implementing partners met at a consultation workshop in Dakar to coordinate the most important aspects of the training. The meeting centred on partners’ efforts at sensitizing veterinary field epidemiologists on the “One Health” approach with the overall objective to improve the capacity of countries to prevent, detect and respond to the threats of human health and disease in the human-animal-environment interface.

The consultation also establishes a functional network of participants, instructors and mentors related to animal and public health to support basic ISAVET training and its sustainability. In his remarks, Khadim Guèye, representative of the Ministry of Livestock and Animal Productions, said, “There’s increased risk of transmitting zoonotic diseases by the contact between humans, animals and the environment. It is necessary to include a multi-sectoral approach, such as this ISAVET training, to fight these threats and strengthen the national surveillance and response system.”

“This initiative signifies the commitment of international and regional partners in the implementation of the One Health Approach,” said Mamadou Ndiaye, representative of the Minister of Health and Social Action. FAO Acting Representative in Senegal, Priya Gajraj, acknowledged that “ISAVET is more than a training’’ and added, “It is a framework of exchange where international partners such as FAO, USAID, and IIAD, Texas A&M University together with the Government of Senegal contribute to the country’s development plan ‘Emerging Senegal.’ ”

ECTAD Regional Coordinator, Baba Soumaré explained that ISAVET training is based on practical, applicable and relevant issues for each country. The 21 participants, including directors of veterinary services and veterinary technical officers from seven West and Central African countries, will have the opportunity to carry out practical exercises and field visits, which will be the basis for developing projects based on country needs.

After the training, participants would return to their services to start their field projects under the supervision of their mentors. They will implement field projects based on topics agreed in advance between participants, mentors, and district supervisory units. Conducted in three months, participants will present their findings and discuss post-training activities in their respective countries.

Source : Fao