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FAO promotes sustainable wildlife health surveillance, reporting

February 11, 2021

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) through the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) program funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has equipped the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) through a donation of items that includes four-seat workstations, executive table and chair, blackboard, a printer/copier and scanner and a printer. This equipment will significantly improve the working conditions and sustainable surveillance and reporting performance of the Wildlife Unit of the Forestry Division.

FAO has also supported the Forestry Division of the MAF to establish a National Wildlife Surveillance System and to develop a draft National Wildlife Surveillance Strategic Plan for 2020-2025 to guide surveillance activities. Other activities include sensitization of Pujehun and Moyamba communities along the human/domestic/wildlife interface on the risk of transmission of wildlife diseases to humans and how to live safely with both domestic and wild animals. Community sentinels have been trained in the same communities to carry out community-based wildlife surveillance and report specific abnormalities, such as the observation of high mortality at the human-wildlife interface in their communities.

Under GHSA funding and in collaboration with the TACUGAMA Chimpanzee Sanctuary, which has partnered with FAO to support the Government in implementing wildlife related activities in the country, a peripheral laboratory is planned to be built in Western Rural, Freetown to analyse wildlife samples.

The handover ceremony took place at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry premises, under the chair of the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), Dr. Abu Bakar Karim, who received the donation on behalf of Government. The ceremony was also attended by the USAID Health Office Director, Jessica Pettit, Assistant FAO Representative (in charge of programme), Mr. Harding Wuyango and Dr. Germain Bobo, Country Team Leader, from the FAO Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases.

During the ceremony, the Chief Agricultural Officer, Mr. Amara Idara Sherriff, expressed gratitude to FAO for the continued support to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. He said, “This support will greatly enhance disease detection in the country”.

USAID’s Health Office Director, Jessica Pettit, thanked FAO for the initiative to strengthen wildlife surveillance in the country. She appreciated the Government of Sierra Leone for enhancing animal disease surveillance in the country: “The United States Government through the Global Health Security Agenda is supporting the country to improve early detection, prevention and response to emerging and re-emerging diseases and it is committed to continue supporting the country in disease prevention and response”.

Mr. Harding Wuyango, Assistant FAO Representative (in charge of programme), appreciated the MAF for the good cooperation. Wildlife plays a significant role in the transmission of emerging and re-emerging diseases yet the capacity to detect wildlife health events in Sierra Leone is still limited. “FAO has embarked on strengthening wildlife surveillance to improved detection of wildlife diseases. This will protect animals and humans against zoonoses”. He pledged FAO’s continued support to the Government of Sierra Leone.

The Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr. Abu Bakar Karim, who presided over the ceremony, applauded FAO for the tremendous support to the Government of Sierra Leone. He said, “Today is another milestone in which FAO and USAID have continued to support the Ministry’s Animal Health Sector to strengthen its capacity. Wildlife is a critical component of the Animal Health Sector and therefore strengthening wildlife surveillance will reduce transmission of zoonotic diseases to people”.

Thanks to funds allocated by USAID, this FAO ECTAD action, which is part of the implementation of the GHSA in Sierra Leone, aims to strengthen the capacities of national authorities in disease surveillance and will certainly contribute to more effective control of the priority zoonotic diseases identified in Sierra Leone, namely viral hemorrhagic fever (Ebola/Lassa), zoonotic influenza (Avian, Swine), anthrax,  plague, rabies and salmonellosis.

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