I got impressed by the virtues of collective actions while reading the GFAR blog post Remembering our collective actions: The unforgettable story of Rinderpest eradication. This infectious disease which was once thought very difficult to control, was nevertheless totally eliminated from the world, thanks to the collective actions. My institution, ICAR-Indian Veterinary Research Institute, among several others, played an active role in the global campaign against Rinderpest under the leadership of FAO and OIE. This disease is history now.
And I am wondering, what could be the next big opportunity for collective actions to make an impact on the livelihoods of people depending on livestock? Those of you who have background in the livestock sector must have figured out already: it’s Peste des petits ruminants (PPR), a destructive, fast spreading viral disease that kills sheep and goats—the livelihoods of millions of the world’s poor. Many of you might be interested to know what’s being done to control and eradicate PPR? I believe PPR could someday be relegated to history just like Rinderpest. Collective actions can make all the difference.
PPR—”Sheep & Goat Plague”—is a severe, fast-spreading, contagious and infectious viral disease of mainly domestic and wild small ruminants that kills up to 90% of the infected animals. It was first described in Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa in 1942. It is characterized by the sudden onset of depression, fever, discharges from the eyes and nose, sores in the mouth, disturbed breathing and cough, foul-smelling diarrhoea and death. It has been reported in most parts of the African continent, the Middle East and the entire Indian subcontinent. It is an OIE-reportable disease worldwide.
Why it is important to eradicate PPR?
PPR affects the lives of about 300 million of the world’s poorest people whose livelihoods depend on these small ruminants. Many small holders in poor developing countries in Asia and Africa depend on goat and sheep for nutrition and livelihoods. Moreover, sheep and goats are a source of regular income, acting like mobile banks to depend on in times of hardship and cash urgencies in poor households. I have seen in the villages in the vicinity of my institute that losing a goat or sheep means a big loss to small holders. PPR represents one of the most economically important animal diseases in areas that rely on small ruminants. It causes annual global losses estimated at US$1.4 to US$2.1 billion. There are indirect losses too, as loss of livestock causes pastoralists and farmers to migrate away from their lands and cultures in search of alternative livelihoods.
PPR is one among the three major animal and plant pests and diseases that put global food security at risk, requiring urgent collective efforts to effectively and sustainably prevent, manage, and—if feasible—eradicate the major pests and diseases. This was the core message of representatives of more than 20 countries, assessing the impact of these three major pests and diseases at the meeting recently organized by FAO, World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), Bioversity International, World Banana Forum and donors.
The study published by authors from my institute reveals annual economic loss due to PPR in India could range from US $2 million to $18 million and may go up to US $1.5 billion. This explains why it is important for India and other countries to control and eradicate PPR as soon as possible. The world’s population of 2.1 billion small ruminants is a critical asset for poor rural households in developing countries, providing quality protein, milk, nutrition, fertilizer, wool and fibre as well as income opportunities and financial flexibility. The control and eventual eradication of the disease is likely to contribute significantly to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular the elimination of poverty (SDG1) and the end of hunger and malnutrition (SDG2). The eradication of PPR will have a major positive impact, not only on the livelihoods of poor farmers, but also on the Post-2015 Development Goals and the UN’s Zero Hunger Challenge.
The PPR eradication strategy: Collective actions
The control and eventual eradication of PPR is now one among the top priorities for FAO and the OIE. Following the successful eradication of Rinderpest – a similarly devastating livestock disease – in 2011, FAO and OIE began mobilizing support for a similar effort aimed at wiping PPR off the map. In 2015, the international community agreed on a global strategy for PPR eradication, setting 2030 as the target date for elimination of the disease in the world. The PPR eradication effort will involve a combined approach of strengthening countries’ veterinary health services and systems for disease surveillance, vaccination campaigns, and awareness raising and capacity building. It will require the support of many institutions like national veterinary services of respective countries, research and development organizations and vaccine manufacturing companies, etc.
Drawing from the experiences and lessons gained from the global strategy to eradicate Rinderpest, a global Strategy for the Control and Eradication of PPR has already been chalked out by the FAO & OIE. As it did for Rinderpest, the ICAR- Indian Veterinary Research Institute has also been actively working towards PPR control including vaccine development. We know that vaccination is the only method for control and eradication. We have so far transferred Technology for “Production and Quality Control of Vero cell-based Live Attenuated PPR vaccine” to several public and private sector agencies in India. One of my colleagues who has been involved in PPR vaccine development at my institute attended a workshop on Thermo-tolerant PPR vaccine at FAO Headquarters in Rome on 11-12 December, 2017, as a part of the global strategy to control and eradicate PPR. This is what we call collective action to jointly solve a problem affecting the life and livelihoods of millions of poor.
Let us hope the collective actions will eradicate PPR, making yet another animal disease, nothing more than history.
Guest blog post by Mahesh Chander (mchanderivri(at)gmail.com), Principal Scientist & Head, Division of Extension Education, ICAR- Indian Veterinary Research Institute
The views expressed are personal, and cannot be attributed to ICAR or GFAR.