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Eradication of Rinderpest from Africa in Near Future

1997/02

The eradication of rinderpest from Africa is an achievable goal within the next 3 - 5 years. This was the consensus of a meeting in Vienna organised by the IAEA's Department of Technical Co-operation and the Joint FAO/IAEA Division in mid-January. It was attended by key donors and the main countries involved in the largest animal disease control programme ever, the Pan African Rinderpest Campaign (PARC).

Rinderpest or cattle plague is a deadly viral disease of cattle. It killed 90% of all cattle and buffaloes when it first took hold in sub-Saharan Africa at the turn of the century. Now the disease is on the verge of extinction, and for the first time in history there is a real prospect that one of the most dreaded animal diseases can be eradicated globally.

PARC involves 34 African countries, but rinderpest, previously widespread, is now under control in all but two of these. This has been achieved through mass vaccination. IAEA's technical support for a laboratory network using Enzyme Linked Immuno Sorbent Assay (ELISA) for monitoring the vaccination process was critical in these campaigns. Now, as mass vaccination ceases and efforts concentrate on removing the remaining pockets of infection, the IAEA laboratory network will focus on surveillance using the most up-to-date molecular technologies, providing rapid identification of existence of the disease or confirmation of its elimination.

In many arid areas of Africa, cattle are the staple livelihood of rural people, who rely on long migrations across borders to reach pastures. Such herds often carry diseases and thus control has to be approached on a regional basis. Consequently the IAEA has created a laboratory network and introduced nuclear based and nuclear related diagnostic technologies which help the veterinary services of Africa to identify these herds to prevent epidemics from spreading.

During the January 1997 meeting, the problems associated with the surveillance of residual rinderpest were defined and possible solutions proposed These involve the strengthening of disease surveillance and of the existing network through assistance to regional reference laboratories so as to help national laboratories in the diagnosis of rinderpest.

African countries and donor organizations (EU and USAID) discussed the requirements for the OIE Pathway and means to strengthen the existing rinderpest surveillance systems. Regional workshops in both West and East Africa will be organised through the IAEA to follow this up.

A collective commitment until rinderpest is eradicated from Africa was confirmed during the meeting by the African countries and the donors, and it is firmly believed this can be achieved within the next 3 - 5 years.

Last update: 16 Feb 2018

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