April 22, 2015
Sierra Leone’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Madam Marie Jalloh, has on behalf of the government and people of Sierra Leone pledged 100 percent commitment to eradicating sheep and goat plague.
Ministerial delegations, along with 300 participants from the continent, representatives from regional bodies and international organizations, met in Abidjan on Thursday, April 2 and agreed on a plan to control and eradicate a devastating animal disease known as ‘Peste des petits ruminants’ by 2030.
Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) is caused by a virus that can kill as many as 90 percent of animals it infects within days, and after a rapid expansion over the past 15 years, it is now present in around 70 countries.
In an interview with Madam Jalloh after the conference, she described the campaign launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) as timely because the presence of PPR in small ruminants could have a major socio-economic impact on farmers and the country as the disease can significantly reduce the number of livestock.
She maintained that livestock production contributes immensely to the country’s agriculture sector, which in turn accounts for 47 percent of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), thus the ‘economic base’ of the country and way of life for farmers.
“The livestock sector deserves utmost attention and investment because it is the richest protein base for human consumption and life existence,” she stated.
In the area of resource mobilization for the eradication of PPR, the deputy minister stated that the Government of Sierra Leone, through the Agriculture Ministry, would continue to lobby donors and development partners to ensure that a successful vaccination campaign is carried out to eradicate PPR by 2030.
Reflecting on strides made to eradicate the disease in Sierra Leone, she revealed that Njala University and the Livestock Division in the ministry conducted a joint survey in 2009 which indicated that PPR is prevalent in the northern, eastern and southern parts of the country, and it was also discovered that the incidence of PPR is higher among sheep and goats.
She added that the government in 2010, through the AU-IBAR, received support under the “Vaccines for the Control of Neglected Animal Diseases in Africa” with funds from the European Union, and vaccinated over 400,000 animals with 837,000 PPR vaccines. Since then, she said, the vaccination has been ongoing with support from other development partners.
Director of Livestock Services, Sorie Mohamed Kamara, expressed the need to train more community animal health officers across the country who will assist in the vaccination campaign as the country can only boost of three veterinarians.
He applauded the work done by FAO and partners in tackling animal health issues and capacity development in the livestock sector through the ‘One Health’ approach.
Kamara also mentioned the need for an improved nationwide electricity distribution as the vaccines ought to be stored in a cool environment in order to maintain their efficacy. Government, he said, needs to reinstate veterinary officers at all entry points in the country to ensure that animals imported into the country are properly screened.
The Agriculture Ministry has since 2014 declared a week-long animal vaccination campaign in October, aimed at controlling and eradicating PPR and other related diseases.