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FAO Launches Initiative To Curb Animal Diseases

In an effort to prevent and control outbreaks of animal diseases and the associated costs, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Monday announced a new five-year initiative “to improve global response to disease outbreaks, implement effective prevention and containment strategies and manage risks,” PANA/Afrique en ligne reports (7/28).

Developed in collaboration with the WHO and World Organization for Animal Health, the “One Health” initiative will target “enhancement of disease early warning and detection systems; strengthening of capacity for surveillance and response; identification and assessment of disease causes in food animal production and natural resource management,” according to the U.N. News Centre.

The program will also work to increase “knowledge of the causes of disease outbreaks in livestock production,” strengthen the “capacity of public veterinary services in preparation, prevention and response to animal disease occurrence,” assess “the social and economic impact of diseases,” and associate “private sector stakeholders with public sector action in livestock and wildlife health,” the U.N. News Centre writes (7/26).

“With more than half of the world’s population now living in cities, urban areas are sprawling closer to intensive farming operations, while at the same time, the consumption of animal products is on the rise,” Agence France-Presse/the Independent reports. “More than 21 billion animals were raised for food in 2008, a figure that FAO believes by 2020 will grow by more than half, as demand for animal products rises in East Asia and other parts of the world” (7/27).

“In developing countries, high impact transboundary animal diseases pose a direct threat to the food security, nutrition and income of rural communities that are dependent on livestock,” an FAO press release notes. “This adds to the difficulties of achieving the Millennium Development Goals, including the reduction of hunger, poverty, child mortality and ensuring environmental sustainability.” According to the release, the “influenza virus gene pool currently circulating in humans, poultry, pigs and other animals is becoming more diverse with new strains of the virus across different hosts becoming increasingly common.”

“This is not science fiction,” FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth said in the press release. “The threats are very real. Deadly and economically devastating livestock epidemics have existed throughout history but there is no doubt that more pathogens are emerging – and spreading. The good news is, with the right policies, they can be better detected and contained.”

AFP/Independent adds that the FAO has called upon donors to invest in the five-year initiative, that will place a particular emphasis on fighting animal disease outbreaks in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America (7/26).