Special factors affecting the control of livestock diseases in sub-Saharan Africa

Special factors affecting the control of livestock diseases in sub-Saharan Africa

M-L PENRITH AND G R THOMSON

Introduction

Although livestock production, particularly in the arid and semi-arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa, is of vital importance as a food source and for trade, it is also an integral part of social custom, tradition and wealth, and therefore of greater value than can be reckoned in mere financial terms. Furthermore, because epidemic diseases are more diverse and prevalent in these regions, animal production and household food security are more constrained by diseases than elsewhere,4 as many of the chapters in this book attest. The fact that many of the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) List A diseases (i.e. those considered most dangerous in terms of international trade) are indigenous to Africa, often makes it difficult for products that originate in Africa to gain acceptance to international markets where the best prices prevail.2 A result is the perception—one hopes erroneous— that disease control is generally doomed to failure in most parts of the continent.

Successful control or eradication of livestock diseases requires a holistic approach that involves appropriate animal husbandry practices, careful surveillance and control measures such as zoosanitary provisions that are enforced, vaccination, chemoprophylaxis and chemotherapy. To be sustainable these actions must be cost-effective and practical, and be recognized by livestock owners as necessary and appropriate. Ideally, livestock owners and animal health authorities need to co-operate in endeavours aimed at more effective disease control. Unfortunately, in sub-Saharan Africa, this ideal is rarely achieved, which is arguably the major reason why animal disease control is generally less effective in this region than in most other parts of the world.

Another well-recognized constraint is finance, to which there are two aspects. In the first place, there is the question of the return on the investment in controlling animal health.

Studies in this area have generally shown that returns on such investment are highly positive (see The control of infectious diseases of livestock: Making appropriate decisions in different epidemiological and socioeconomic conditions),14 although there is a view that the cost of eradicating the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in the UK was greater than the benefit it achieved. The argument is that a cheaper, albeit more time-consuming, approach would have been more appropriate.15 The second aspect relates to who pays for control or eradication. In the modern world it is generally accepted that the ‘user’ — more accurately the ‘beneficiary’ — pays. This presents two problems because (1) in sub-Saharan Africa most communities dependent upon livestock are impoverished, and (2) when it comes to effective control or eradication of epidemic diseases, the beneficiary is not confined to livestock owners. It is generally accepted therefore that the State has this responsibility but, once again, many states in sub- Saharan Africa have rarely been able to afford large-scale control/eradication programmes. The eradication of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) from Ngamiland (north-west Botswana) in 1996/97 is a remarkable exception. When the disease appeared after an absence of more than 50 years 1 the government of Botswana devoted more than US $ 350 million to that cause. At present, international donors make very significant contributions to the control/ eradication of epidemic animal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa but these are not sustainable in the long term. Nevertheless, donor-assisted programmes such as PARC (Pan-African Rinderpest Campaign) and its successor, PACE (Pan-African Programme for the Control of Epizootics), both of which were funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization, have made vital contributions to the eradication of rinderpest from large parts of Africa as well as to improved surveillance programmes.

In the event of epidemics, the measures and approaches necessary to control/eradicate them and prevent transboundary spread are generally prescribed by international convention based on experience and approaches accepted in the developed world, particularly western Europe and North America. In practice, it is often not possible to apply these measures effectively in sub-Saharan countries because of financial and/or logistical reasons. This sometimes leads to the accusation that the measures applied to control an outbreak were not properly implemented and hence the lack of success. However, it is often not recognized by donors and international agencies that the methods prescribed have no prospect of being successful in the environment in which they are applied.17 There is therefore a pressing need for control measures of epidemic diseases in sub-Saharan Africa to be more effectively researched in order to develop more practical strategies to overcome the special conditions that prevail.

Even in highly developed countries, the possibility that conventional control measures may not achieve the desired result without excessive financial losses has been demonstrated during the outbreaks of classical swine fever (hog cholera) in the Netherlands in 1996 and FMD in the UK in 2001. Failure to recognize disease early enough to prevent spread usually lies at the root of the problem. After the disease has been diagnosed, logistics...

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