Agro-terrorism and agro-crime constitute a considerable threat to animal health, the economy, biodiversity, food security and safety, and public health. In today's interconnected world, infectious diseases can spread easily across large areas and uncontained disease events in one region have the potential to develop into international crises. To effectively deal with agro-terror or agro-crime using pathogens of animal origin, it is crucial that veterinary and law enforcement agencies are equipped to work together to jointly plan, prepare, and respond to animal disease outbreaks.
Under a three-year project funded by Global Affairs Canada to build resilience against agro-terrorism and agro-crime, surveillance and evaluation tools, as well as laboratory mapping tools, are being developed and employed, and regional trainings and simulation exercises will be carried out in order to empower key stakeholders in target regions. The project is a collaborative effort between three organizations to build global capacity to respond to animal health emergencies that result from the intentional release of animal pathogenic biological agents. It brings together the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), with its field experience and technical background in emergency management, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) as a consensual editor of guidelines and international norms, and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) with its vast experience in bio-threats investigations.
Under this project, in May 2021, a workshop was held in Tunisia to present to the country the future assessment mission as well as the phases of the project that will help develop a response to risks related to animal health and the use of animal pathogens. Following the workshop, a mission to Tunisia with the objective of identifying gaps and needs for the ordinary epidemiologic surveillance system and the specific surveillance system in response to agro-terrorism and agro-crime threats. Surveillance targeting potential deliberate epizootics will be carried out and investigations relating to these events will be conducted. Efforts will be focused on strengthening collaboration between veterinary services and law enforcement authorities to improve their ability to sustainably respond to animal health emergencies.
Following the assessment phase, training and exercise materials will be tailored to local needs and available resources.
The project will also introduce a support kit that includes tools for Good Emergency Management Practices (GEMP) workshop facilitators and train-the-trainer workshops. These tools include a learning module on the intentional use of pathogens related to agro-crime or bio-terrorism affecting animal health.
North Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia are the three target regions that will benefit from this innovative project.