*The annual ECOWAS Regional Animal Health Network meeting brings together scientists and policy-makers to collaborate on effective animal health interventions. *
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Subregional Office for West Africa supported the seventh annual Regional Animal Health Network (RAHN) meeting on 21–24 September, organized by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in collaboration with the African Union InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE), the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS), the ECOWAS Regional Animal Health Centre (RAHC) and Brooke West Africa.
The four-day meeting in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, was attended by veterinary epidemiologists, laboratory experts and chief veterinary officers of ECOWAS member states to assess the progress made on recommendations from the previous annual meeting. Participants also received a short training on disease knowledge management and leadership, advocacy, and resource mobilization. Representatives from Cameroon, Chad and the** Democratic Republic of the Congo**, members of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), also participated as observers.
In his welcoming remarks, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, Sékou Sangaré, said: “This workshop provides an opportunity to meet and exchange views on the current and future activities of the RAHNs, to follow up and evaluate the recommendations of last year’s meeting, and to reflect seriously on the animal health issues that have arisen in recent years as a result of the recurrent major health crises that threaten the livelihoods of millions of people, such as avian flu, foot-and-mouth disease and others.” He particularly thanked FAO and its Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) for supporting ECOWAS in setting up these networks and for continued support in organizing the annual meetings over the years.
Mamadou Niang, FAO ECTAD regional laboratory expert, representing FAO on behalf of the FAO ECTAD Regional Manager, commented: “It is imperative that we, technical and financial partners, further commit ourselves to pooling our resources, expertise and experience in order to support the RAHC in this difficult and much needed mission, which is essential to improve our systems and strengthen our populations’ wellbeing.” In addition to technical aspects, he encouraged participants to address issues related to optimizing the performance of the networks, their added value, the expansion of the partnership, and the inclusion of other topical issues as well as sustainability.
ECOWAS RAHN improves collaborative implementation
The RAHN provides a platform for scientists and policy-makers to converge and explore how they can jointly facilitate the implementation of effective and efficient animal health interventions in the region.
Subjects such as animal health surveillance, risk assessment and early warning of potential disease outbreaks were discussed among key stakeholders. Disease information sharing among partners involved in public and animal health helps to ensure that an integrated risk assessment approach is applied in animal health activities. This information sharing is also key to improving the development of disease control strategies and addressing other public health threats at all levels (local, national, regional and international).
High-Level Meeting of the ECOWAS Specialized Technical Committee on Food and Agriculture (STCF)
Recommendations formulated during the RAHN meeting served as the basis for the conclusions of the High-Level Meeting of the ECOWAS Specialized Technical Committee on Food and Agriculture (STCF), held on 27–28 September 2021 in Abidjan.
In the STCF, the ministers affirmed the need to seek synergy between action plans at the regional and national level, as well as to have a monitoring-evaluation mechanism for the implementation of decisions. Ministers expressed their support for the initiative to ban animal abuse in general, and confirmed the alignment of national strategies with the regional and global strategy for the eradication of peste des petits ruminants (PPR). Finally, the STCF adopted five strategic documents, including a strategy for the eradication and prevention of PPR by 2030 and a strategy for the eradication of dog-transmitted rabies by 2030.