Upward Trend to Defeat Rabies in West and Central Africa

Regional Manager for West & Central Africa, Dr. Baba Soumaré being interviewed

November 22, 2019//-September 28 is World Rabies Day, a global health observance started in 2007 to raise awareness about rabies and bring together partners to enhance prevention and control efforts worldwide.

FAO Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) joined World Rabies Day’s commemoration and its Regional Manager for West & Central Africa, Dr. Baba Soumaré, describes some inspiring stories about ECTAD’s contribution to eliminate rabies in the region.

Rabies is a viral zoonosis affecting humans and other mammals that inevitably lead to death once the symptoms are declared.

About 60 000 people die of rabies worldwide each year, Africa being the second most affected continent counting over 36 000 deaths, most of whom are children.Yet rabies-related deaths are preventable with the right tools and strategies to fight and prevent it.

ECTAD supports West and Central Africa countries to invest in policies to defeat rabies by 2030

The expansion of rabies situations in the region indicates insufficient control tools and national policies against this neglected disease.

However, according to Soumaré, “West and Central Africa is showing a clear upward trend to defeat rabies by developing and implementing targeted efficient national policies and integrated national action plans”.

For instance, “during World Rabies Day2018, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone vigorously enforcedrabies legislation supported by FAO” he explained.

All seven countries validated their national rabies integrated control plans and strategies, which clearly shows the increase in governments’ support to effective rabies eradication programs.

FAO capacity strengthening in the field

FAO provides significant technical assistance in improving rabies diagnosis in the field. In this sense, Baba Soumaré explained: “With FAO ECTAD support, in 2017 and 2018, rabies diagnosis was strengthened in national veterinary laboratories in seven West and Central Africa countries (Burkina-Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Liberia, Mali and Senegal) through the provision of equipment and reagents and the straightening of staff’s capacities.

Veterinarylabs are recovering testing ability. Now rabies can be identified in every West and Central Africa country. This was not possible just 5 years ago”, Dr.Soumaré added.

Encouraging One Health approach

By strengthening countries’ capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to zoonotic endemic diseases like rabies,country buy-in to the “One Health” approach in the regionhas naturally been accelerated. This innovative method promotes multi-sectoral responses to food safety hazards, risks from zoonoses, and other public health threats at the human-animal-ecosystem interface.

Following this approach in the fight against rabies, Dr.Soumaré confirmed that “ECTAD encouraged the operationalisation of rabies task forces within national One Health Platforms in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Senegal.

Moreover, seven Strategic Plans for Rabies Elimination by 2030 have been validated and implemented under a One Health approach (in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone)with FAO support.

They are all important achievements that mark the rising tendency of the region to eradicate rabies by 2030.

As FAO ECTAD Regional Manager for West and Central Africa, Soumarédeclares being committed to the world’s biggest anti-rabies initiative: “Zero by 30: The Strategic Plan”.

Together with World Health Organization (WHO), World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC), FAO is contributing to the fight to end human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies by 2030.

“The elimination of rabies requires a consistent and sustainable involvement of governments and multi stakeholder collaboration backed by robust systems of management of human and animal health.Together, we are closer to eradicate rabies by 2030” he affirmed.

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