East Africa Regional Animal Health Networks
The Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs) network, the eastern Africa epidemiology regional network (EAREN) and the eastern Africa regional laboratory network (EARLN) form together the larger eastern African regional animal health network (RAHN) that operates as a platform established by the IGAD member states, FAO, IGAD Centre for Pastoral Areas and Livestock Development (ICPALD) and East Africa Community (EAC) to bring together Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs), epidemiologists and laboratory professionals. RAHN has been holding meetings since its establishment in 2008 to promote information sharing on transboundary animal diseases (TADs) and zoonoses; and strengthen coordination and collaboration for effective and efficient prevention and control of these TADs and zoonoses in the region.
To enhance regional coordination mechanism between the IGAD and EAC, Chief Veterinary Officers, Epidemiology and Laboratory networks, established the Eastern Africa Regional Animal Health Network (RAHN), with an aim to create a regional platform where CVOs and epidemiologists share technical know-how and key data and information on animal diseases and zoonoses, an information used for wider use and understanding in the Great Horn of Africa (GHoA). During the 6th RAHN meeting in Kampala, Uganda, it was recommended that the IGAD Centre for Pastoral Areas and Livestock Development (ICPALD) writes an information note in order to introduce the RAHN platform to the technical partners and policy and decision makers.
In addition to the network, important scientific and technical networks, working groups and sub-working groups have been established in the region that are required to organize and hold meetings from time to time to discuss issues relevant to animal health, disease control and general livestock development. This is based on the fact that strong links that exist between livestock diseases, pastoral livelihoods, food security and sustainable national economic growth pose a huge challenge that needs regional attention in order to address these challenges, in a holistic manner, and for desired impacts, including reduced threat to public health, food safety and food security; and to support livestock production and natural resources management in the eastern Africa region, as well as safeguarding the human and animal health of trading partners. Thus, within the context of globalization and ever growing international/regional trade, prevention and control of high impact diseases, that include TADs and zoonoses together with emerging and re-emerging diseases, remains a key regional priority.
For robust preparedness and contingency planning, strong coordination mechanism, timely and good-quality information about disease events are needed in order to support decision making for disease prevention and response. In addition, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches are required for surveillance design and analysis of surveillance results, taking into account the disease drivers and pathogen characteristics. The RAHN stands to largely benefit from the existing epidemiology and laboratory networks at national, regional, and global levels that play important role in gathering quality disease data and provide sound epidemiological interpretation for appropriate action.
To achieve this, FAO has since 2008 organized annual meetings for regional networks for epidemio-surveillance (EAREN) and laboratory diagnostics (EARLN). In 2010, a joint annual meeting was organized for the two regional networks in Djibouti and during the 3rd joint EAREN and EARLN meeting held in July 2012 in Mombasa, Kenya, country representatives agreed on the need to consolidate the regional epidemio-surveillance and laboratory diagnostics networks under a single sector-wide umbrella, the Regional Animal Health Network (RAHN), accommodating the Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs). The re-structure aimed to make use of the CVOs expertise and to increase their participation in coordination of the regional networks. As it stands, the RAHN provides suitable framework and platform for the development of stronger collaboration between countries of the region and RECs, regional and global networks and other technical partners, with an overall goal to strengthen national animal disease surveillance systems.
Members of the RAHN include the Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs), the Epidemiology and Laboratory Focal Points, together with coordinators of the Sub-networks, Working Groups and Sub-working Groups, appointed in each of the following countries: Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Representatives from the national Wildlife Authorities, Ministries of Health, IGAD/ICPALD, EAC, AU-IBAR, AU-PANVAC, ILRI, OIE, FAO and other partners also form the membership and attend the annual regional coordination meeting that is held on rotational basis amongst the Member states. During the meetings; networking, information sharing and dialogue on important regional issues, other than enhancing regional coordination, are highlighted.
RAHN also stands as a suitable platform for discussion of important global issues such as Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), which was launched in February 2014 by various countries, with international organizations, public and private stakeholders and civil society and that aims to accelerate progress toward a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats whether naturally occurring, deliberate, or accidental, and to promote global health security as an international priority. This GHSA has three main objectives: (i) Prevent avoidable epidemics, (ii) Detect threats early, and (iii) Respond rapidly and effectively, all reflected in 19 Technical Areas (TAs) with specific targets and indicators to monitor health security capabilities at global, regional and country levels. A total of sixteen (16) countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda from Eastern Africa, have been prioritized by USAID for assistance and pipeline funding through FAO.
Another programme of importance to RAHN is the USAID Emerging Pandemic Threat Programme (EPT2), for which a framework for the second phase of EPT2 was launched for a period of five (5) years, with FAO designated as implementing partner that has also been tasked to develop and support the programme components in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa (West, Central and East) and Middle East. The implementation of EPT2 will be aligned with the GHSA. The network countries that are non – GHSA include DR Congo and Rwanda.
AU-IBAR and ICPALD are already implementing USAID-funded project Standard Methods and Procedures in Animal Health (SMP-AH) and the project, entitled “Improving surveillance of trade-sensitive animal diseases in IGAD Member States’’ or “Surveillance of Trade-sensitive diseases (STSD)” funded by the European Union (EU) and Improving Supply of Safe and Quality Livestock and Meat Exported from the Horn of Africa to Middle East and Gulf Countries funded by Italian Development.
Objectives of the RAHN
- To enhance coordination between the Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs) network, and the established epidemiologist and laboratory networks in the region;
- To establish a regional platform for information and human resource sharing between the member countries on issues related to transboundary animal diseases (TADs) and zoonoses prevention and control;
- To function and operate as a platform whereby established scientific and technical sub-networks and sub groups share information in order to harmonize policies and approaches and coordinate regional efforts for better understanding and planning.
During the last regional animal health network meeting held in Kampala, Uganda in September 7-9, 2015, ten (10) important recommendations were made to guide the RAHN future plans that include:
- Anchorage of Regional Animal Health Networks into RECs
Considering that IGAD has a regional technical center-ICPALD; a number of qualified staff and regional projects; and is supporting the RAHN annual meeting since 2014, the meeting recommended that IGAD take necessary action to coordinate and anchor the regional networks with support of EAC and FAO.
Actions to be undertaken amongst others include:
- Preparation of an information note to introduce the EA RAHN to partners, policy and decision makers.
- Prepare visibility and communication materials for RAHN to be shared with national governments and partners
- Create a dedicated webpage for the RAHN
- Conduct a visit to EAC Secretariat to chart strategy for collaboration to support and sustain the RAHN
The meeting commended the coordinators of the FMD and ASF sub-networks and recommends strengthening of the sub-networks as well as establishment of Rabies and CBPP sub-groups to complement information sharing on the selected priority diseases for improved disease control and strengthening of animal health services. The process will be supported by technical institutions that include FAO, OIE, AU-IBAR and the RECs (EAC and IGAD).
Considering the work already initiated by FAO, the meeting recommends FAO to take the lead in this and report to the RAHN members by March 2015.
- Information sharing and Disease reporting
Irregularity and weakness in reporting, poor recording and documentation of collected surveillance data is a major constraint in disease control in the eastern Africa region. This has also been exhibited in weak information sharing at national and regional levels since the inception of the networks.
Considering this setbacks, the meeting recommends improvement of disease reporting and surveillance information sharing through relevant and appropriate training of the key stakeholders i.e. livestock producers and animal health service provider. The training should be supported by FAO, AU-IBAR, OIE, RECs (EAC and IGAD) and others.
To alleviate the weak network information sharing, clear rules and principles governing the management of networks through a defined charter should be put in place. ICPALD has been requested to make a follow up.
Recommended channels for regular information sharing within the network include official website (www.icpald.org), ICPALD Animal Health Bulletin every 6 months and e-communication (Tele Conference, Skype, Webinars, telephone, e-mails) particularly for real time information and emergencies. CVOs, EAREN and EARLN Coordinators will be responsible for submitting information for uploading.
Disease sharing format / template / form will be drafted by the EAREN network coordinators in collaboration with FAO and AU-IBAR.
The meeting also recommends that EAREN and EARLN Focal points establish a monthly Skype Conference to share information and update each other on ongoing activities.
- Priority diseases for immediate consideration
Rift valley fever (RVF)
Considering the outcome of the RVF Regional Conference organised by OIE in April 2015 in Djibouti under the auspices of the FAO /OIE GF-TADs and;
Noting the probability of new RVF outbreaks occurring in the region given the high probability of occurrence of a medium to strong El Niño event during the coming months, the meeting recommends that:
- Countries in the region urgently develop, evaluate and update, where appropriate, their national Contingency Plans using a One Health approach. Tools developed jointly by OIE/WHO/World Bank with the support of FAO (Integrated IHR – PVS tool and Trans-sectoral Coordination Framework) was recommended.
- Heighten surveillance in high risk areas, e.g. increased monitoring of sentinel herds where available; and increased surveillance in markets or places where large numbers of animals are traded or congregate
- Countries previously affected by RVF consider to start carrying out targeted vaccination campaigns in high risk areas
- Regional organisations including AU-IBAR, IGAD and AU-PANVAC should assist countries at risk to develop a detailed vaccination policy/strategy based on the national risk maps
- International and regional organisations to support this operational planning, preferably within the framework of already ongoing existing projects or within joint advocacy platforms for donor funding.
Peste des petits ruminants (PPR)
The FAO-OIE International Conference for the Control and Eradication of Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) was held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire from 31 March to 2 April 2015 and officially launched the control and eradication of PPR worldwide. The conference endorsed the FAO-OIE Global Control Eradication Strategy for PPR (GCES). Part of this strategy is the organisation of regional roadmap meetings with the objective of assessing country situations and to continuously follow up on the implementation of the strategy at a global level.
The meeting recommends that sub-PPR network be established to support the implementation of the GCES (including continental and regional strategies) and that RAHN annual meeting be held back to back with the PPR Roadmap Meeting for eastern Africa. It is envisaged that these roadmap meetings will be organized with the support of and in close collaboration with all stakeholders (in addition to RAHN participants, research institutions and animal production or civil society representatives).
Foot and mouth disease (FMD)
Considering the outcomes of the FMD Roadmap meeting held in October 2015 in Kigali, Rwanda, the meeting recommends that FAO, in collaboration with Ethiopia and the RECs, to take necessary action to up-date the regional FMD roadmap 2014-2024 to include the remaining countries.
The meeting also recommends IGAD and EAC to explore harmonizing their regional FMD strategy and the countries to take necessary action to have their FMD strategy before the next Annual meeting.
African swine fever (ASF)
The meeting recommends that ASF sub-network take necessary action to finalize the regional ASF strategy by December 2015.Countries including Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia that have not yet nominated their ASF focal points to submit their nominees to the ASF Regional Coordinator who needs to follow up with the countries on this.
- Emergency diseases
The meeting commends FAO, EPT2 partners, CDC and IGAD for the updates provided regarding emerging diseases such MERS Corona virus, Ebola and other VHFs. The meeting recommends full cooperation and involvement of target countries during the implementation of the planned projects.
- Regional Support Laboratory (RSL)
Considering that countries in the Eastern Africa region have under-utilized NAHDIC as the RSL and noting that this can be attributed to the lack of a clear mode of operation both by the RSL and the countries it supports as well as financial implications.
Considering that the status, roles and responsibilities of the RSL in Sub Saharan Africa have been discussed and agreed during a meeting held in July 2012 in Addis Ababa, the meeting recommends that NAHDIC develops an action plan with key advocacy messages targeting partners for support. This would enhance its visibility and help in achieving greater impact, thus fulfilling its role effectively as the RSL in Eastern Africa.
The meeting also reiterates past recommendations and urges countries to make use of the services provided by the RSL.
Regarding the selection of a second RSL which can provide disease specific support in the region, the meeting recommended that FAO, AU-IBAR, AU-PANVAC, IAEA, RECs and OIE continue to lead the process and make a report by March 2016.
- Mapping Livestock and Animal Health interventions
The meeting noted the ongoing efforts on cross border bilateral and trilateral animal health coordination by IGAD, AU-IBAR and FAO in collaboration with countries to enhance joint surveillance, vaccination, disease reporting etc. In view of the global commitment to control and eradicate PPR and enhance control other TADs, the meeting recommends that IGAD, AU-IBAR and FAO map and document the ongoing initiatives to help relevant actors complement the efforts, harmonize sanitary requirements and strengthen regional/national coordination. This will complement the ongoing mapping action by USAID funded project (SMP-AH) coordinated by AU-IBAR and IGAD.
The mapping of programmes/projects in the region will help understanding what existed and where, identify gaps in terms of program and coverage and to facilitate decision making on funding and investment to fill the gap or complement the efforts.
- Policies and involvement of private sector
Considering that there is need for harmonized policies and legislation around common regional issues and frameworks that enhance private sector and community participation in delivery of veterinary services, the meeting recommends development of national policies, strategies and legislations that rationalize veterinary services into public or private services and those that need public private partnership (PPP).
The meeting also recommends regional harmonization of policies with respect to regional common issues.
- Anti microbial resistance (AMR)
Considering that AMR has been recognized as a global health concern by WHO, FAO and OIE and all their Member States have been urged to develop their own National Action Plans on AMR before May 2017, the meeting recommends that countries put in place AMR surveillance systems including laboratory surveillance to identify priority value chain production systems, supply chains and practices as a basis for designing action plans.
The meeting also recommends that AMR be considered among the areas of work of the RAHN including the development of regional AMR strategy and requests FAO to coordinate the work.
- Promotion of One Health
Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda as well as OHCEA shared their experiences in implementing the One Health approach. The meeting commends those countries and organization for the progress made and recommends that FAO finalize the mapping and documentation of all ongoing OH experiences and initiatives being implemented across the region.
So far, some of those proposed meetings between the networks coordinators and between the sub-networks and sub-groups, as well, have not taken place for technical and financial challenges but ICPALD, in collaboration with FAO ECTAD, is planning to organize few meetings before the next RAHN meeting in the region.