Eradication of peste des petits ruminants (PPR) is ‘not only within reach, but also in our hands’, according to José Graziano da Silva, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Speaking after 15 countries agreed to collaborate on a global plan to eradicate PPR by 2030, Dr Graziano da Silva said: ‘We have a plan, the tools, the science, and the partners.’
The eradication plan has been drawn up by the FAO and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). If successful, it will make PPR only the second animal disease to be eradicated, after rinderpest in 2011.
The agreement to collaborate on PPR eradication was reached earlier this month at a meeting organised by the FAO, the OIE and the government of Ivory Coast, which was attended by ministerial delegations and more than 300 participants.
The OIE reports that PPR is estimated to cause more than US $2 billion in losses each year, mainly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. It says that the eradication plan will cost an estimated US $4 billion to $7 billion over a 15-year period, but that the annual savings generated by eradication of PPR are expected to quickly pay back the investment required.
The FAO and OIE believe that PPR could be eradicated ‘in half the time it took to eradicate rinderpest’, provided that the global strategy is adequately resourced and well coordinated, and is backed by strong political commitment from national authorities. Effective engagement with veterinary services and rural communities is also needed.
Demand for meat and milk from small ruminants in Africa is expected to rise by 137 per cent from 2000 to 2030, and by even more in Asia, but animal disease can hamper efforts to increase production. The FAO and OIE say that eradicating PPR will improve food and nutritional security for billions of consumers and particularly for the 300 million vulnerable households that keep sheep and goats in affected regions.
They hope that the campaign will bring other benefits by boosting national veterinary systems, which, in turn, will enable control of other livestock diseases such as brucellosis and foot-and-mouth disease.
The eradication strategy has a four-stage approach. The first stage is an assessment period, expected to last between one and three years, and will require countries to identify the number and location of flocks and where they are most at risk. It will also require legal powers and other support to be given to veterinary services to enable them to intervene where needed.
The second stage will focus on control and risk management, and will last for between two and five years. During this stage, systematic vaccination will be used, focused initially on areas where the incidence of PPR is greatest. The third stage will be geared to final eradication and will also take between two and five years. Vaccination against PPR will be mandatory during this phase and, the OIE and FAO say, should be ‘considered a public rather than a private good’.
Noting that there is already an inexpensive, safe and reliable vaccine for PPR, which complies with OIE standards on quality, the OIE and FAO explain that the eradication campaign will require the immunisation of up to 80 per cent of all small ruminants in participating countries. They suggest that national and regional authorities encourage vaccine makers to increase production capacity and that researchers seek ways to make thermostable versions of the vaccine that can withstand higher ambient temperatures.
The final stage of the eradication programme will require countries to document that they have had no cases of PPR for at least 24 months.