FAO and the Government of Uganda launch a new surveillance evaluation tool to support government in prevention and control of zoonotic diseases
As part of its continued support to the government of Uganda, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in partnership with the government of Uganda through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), have launched the Surveillance Evaluation Tool (SET) – a standardized evaluation tool for animal health surveillance capacity and performance in Uganda.
The SET is part of a group of FAO tools that are used by National Veterinary Services and Ministries of member countries to facilitate the prevention and control of animal diseases and threats, including zoonoses or diseases originating in animals that can spread to people. The SET allows for a comprehensive baseline evaluation of national animal health surveillance systems.
Uganda is the one of the countries in the world with high incidence of zoonotic diseases. The FAO USAID Global Health Security Agenda project project focuses on priority zoonotic diseases including anthrax, zoonotic influenza viruses, hemorrhagic fevers (Ebola, RVF, CCHF and Marburg), brucellosis, trypanosomosis, plague, and rabies. The economic burden due to zoonotic diseases in Uganda has not yet been estimated. However, World Bank (2012) estimated the economic burden due to six of the zoonotic diseases that occurred in specific countries between 1997 and 2009 as being US $80 Billion. It is estimated that globally, there are over 2.5 Billion cases of human illness and 2.7 million deaths annually due to the top 56 zoonoses (ILRI, 2012).
Uganda is the eighth country in Africa to try out SET to assess the animal health surveillance systems, after Tanzania, Liberia, Kenya, Cote d’Voire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Mali where the tool was used to identify gaps in livestock disease surveillance and develop action plans for improvement.
Speaking at the launch of the tool, the FAO Deputy Representative Ms Priya Gujadhur noted that surveillance is very important to in order to derive the best approach for the government and other partners to respond livestock diseases. “Our expectation is that at the end of this activity, disease detection capacity of the national animal health surveillance system in Uganda will be much stronger and ready to tackle any potential outbreak of priority zoonotic or transboundary animal disease threat,” said Ms Gujadhur.
The launch of the tool was followed by a series of interviews at the national level and three field missions at local government and community levels of the surveillance system. The evaluation team then divided into three groups visiting the East, Centre and West part of the country to gain more insight on the surveillance system from the perspective of the field. This mission is expected to recommend further work, identify specific recommendations on areas that will address the country’s capacity needs to prepare and respond to priority zoonotic diseases, major transboundary animal diseases and emerging and re-emerging zoonotic diseases.
The ten-day evaluation exercise is part of the USAID funded project, “Supporting the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) to address zoonotic diseases and animal health in Africa” under which FAO is supporting MAAIF through the Directorate of Animal Resources to address surveillance, prevention and control of zoonotic diseases, strengthening National Laboratory Systems and capacity building.
The Director for Animal Resources, Dr Juliet Sentumbwe, while speaking at the launch of the tool, expressed gratitude to FAO and USAID, saying that the ministry will, for the first time in many years, know where the country stands in terms of livestock and zoonotic diseases as well as be able to identify gaps that will need to be addressed. “We have eminent gaps in collecting reliable information. This has not only impacted negatively on response but also greatly affected meat exports because we are not able to tell which diseases are present in our livestock, yet exporters need clearance from relevant ministries to ascertain that the products being exported are disease-free,” Dr Sentumbwe said.
Dr Sentumbwe further stated that the ministry was looking forward to the exercise which is hoped to generate reliable evidence and form a response plan that will help the government prevent and control all livestock diseases including zoonoses. She noted that the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries has been experiencing a series of zoonotic disease outbreaks including Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), and Rift Valley Fever (RVF), reported in 2017 alone.
The Deputy FAO Representative in Uganda also handed over an assortment of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the Director for Animal Resources to support field officers in surveillance and response to disease outbreaks.
Through the USAID funded project, FAO has been supporting the Ministry of Agriculture by: mapping out priority zoonotic diseases, their hot spots and distribution, establishing and strengthening the National Animal Health Network in Uganda, setting up and equipping selected regional and district veterinary laboratories in Arua, Gulu, Lira, Masaka, Moroto, Mbale, Mbarara, Kiruhura and Kiboga, assessing the National Veterinary Laboratory Capacity using the FAO Laboratory Mapping Tool (LMT), supporting response to the outbreak of HPAI (HPAI)Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in Kalangala, Wakiso and Masaka District, supporting response to the outbreaks of Rift Valley Fever in Kiboga, Mityana, Kiruhura and Kyankwanzi districts, training of 106 staff from MAAIF, districts and other support agencies on various aspects including disease surveillance, outbreak response/simulation, laboratory standard operating procedures and quality management, providing laboratory and surveillance materials worth USD 130 000 and supporting the development of national surveillance plans of 4 priority zoonotic diseases including Rabies, Anthrax, Highly Pathogenic Avian and brucellosis.
About the SET
The SET is a comprehensive and user-friendly tool to assess animal health surveillance systems. It allows for scoring exercise and clear outputs are automatically generated by the tool to visualize strengths and weaknesses of the system. SET allows for a comprehensive baseline evaluation of national animal health surveillance systems. The result is a set of recommendations on tangible actions that can be initiated at country level to achieve realistic goals of improving the responsiveness of the surveillance system. The first piloting mission was organized in Tanzania by FAO’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) and The Emergency Prevention System for Animal Health (EMPRES) Following missions occurred in Liberia, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Guinea, and Mali supported by funds from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Emerging Pandemic Threats Programme 2 (EPT 2)).