The Government of Nigeria has commended the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for strengthening Nigeria’s technical capacity for addressing animal diseases.
Speaking on Monday, August 16, FMARD Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Dr Ernest Umakhihe, said FAO’s support through its Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) is helping animal health experts in surveillance, preparing, preventing and responding to animal health risks in the country.
He made the remarks during the official launch event of the In-Service Applied Veterinary Epidemiology Training (ISAVET) programme at FMARD headquarters in Abuja. “This training programme could not have come at a better time than now, considering the emergence and re-emergence of diseases of significant public health and socioeconomic importance such as Avian Influenza, Foot and Mouth Disease, African Swine Fever, rabies and Ebola, to mention but a few,” he said.
According to Dr Umakhihe, controlling diseases and limiting their impact is necessary for ensuring food security and nutrition in the country. “We’re therefore determined to strengthen our ability as a nation to predict, detect and respond in a timely manner. This training will equip public officers with the proper set of skills and competencies required for managing emerging health emergencies in animals and humans,” he noted.
The ISAVET training is implemented by FAO through the Global Health Security Agenda with support from the United States Agency for International Development. The four (4) month training, which includes classroom and in-service field training, involves veterinarians and other animal health experts from twenty-four (24) states across Nigeria. It is also being rolled out in fourteen (14) other African countries to build a critical mass of trained veterinarians across the continent. It aims at improving the abilities of veterinarians and other animal health workers to predict, prepare, prevent, respond and recover from critical health threats affecting humans and animals at the human-animal-environmental interface.
“Our Ministry appreciates this laudable collaboration and I want to assure you that we will continue to support your efforts by helping to facilitate the smooth implementation of this programme,” he concluded
FAO’s Representative in Nigeria and to the Economic Organization of the West African States (ECOWAS), Fred Kafeero, said that his Agency recognizes the fact that healthy animals greatly contribute to the elimination of hunger, healthy people and sustainable food production.
“As a specialized Agency of the United Nations, FAO considers animal health as a key pillar for sustainable livestock production. We work with governments all across the globe to contribute to the improvement of animal health to make livestock production more productive and sustainable,” he said. He added that FAO implements animal health programmes related to the establishment of best practices in the prevention and control of priority diseases which threaten animal production, public health and trade through its international and regional networks, animal health projects and disseminating practical information.
“Here in Nigeria, FAO has been working with the Government for many years now in the areas of animal health protection through strengthening capacity at different levels in dealing with zoonoses and antimicrobial resistance and empowering of Community-based Animal Health Workers, among other areas,” he said adding: “It is our hope that ISAVET training will greatly contribute to the sustainable development of Nigeria and boost efforts for ending hunger, by building a highly-skilled workforce to overcome critical threats at the interface between human, animal and environmental health.”
Speaking after the launch the Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) of Nigeria, Dr. Alabi Olaniran, said that the training was a shot in the arm to Nigeria following recurring reports of animal disease outbreaks in the country.. “In Nigeria, we’re battling with emerging and re-emerging animal diseases. We have been recording outbreaks of avian influenza, African swine fever, Lassa fever which is causing a lot of human mortalities in the country. This is why it is paramount that we build the capacity of our field officers so that they are able to detect and respond to animal health threats in good time. The ISAVET training programme is so apt,” Dr Olaniran explained.
ISAVET, a case for sustainability
With FAO’s support through ECTAD, each participant is exposed to improved techniques for surveillance, outbreak investigation and risk communication. ISAVET training for veterinary field officers is a good example of sustainability for the future of the country, as the innovative in-service training model allows for rapid translation of these benefits to the national veterinary services so that the positive impacts on health security and food production will be felt in a short time and continue for the foreseeable future.
About ECTAD Programme
The Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) is a programme by FAO for the planning and delivery of veterinary assistance to member states in responding to the threat of transboundary animal health crises. It is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Through the programme, FAO supports the Federal Government of Nigeria in strengthening the capacities of national and local partners in dealing with various animal disease emergencies through prevention, detection and response to zoonotic and non-zoonotic disease outbreaks at the source. By helping to avoid national, regional and global spread, ECTAD is critical in protecting people and animals from disease threats.