Nations pledge to stamp out deadly Peste des petits ruminants disease

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Brussels, Sep 8 (IANS/AKI) Over 45 countries on Friday vowed to globally eradicate by 2030 the highly contagious Peste des petits ruminants disease which kills of millions of sheep and goats each year in Africa and Asia, the UN, EU and World Organisation for Animal Health said in a joint statement.

At a global conference hosted by the European Commission in Brussels, participants stressed that PPR “directly threatens the livelihoods of the poorest people of our countries with significant losses in our local economies,” the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the European Union and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) stated.

The disease causes more than $2.1 billion in economic losses per year, FAO, European Union (EU) and OIE said in the statement.

Since its initial identification in Cote d’Ivoire in 1942, PPR has spread to over 70 countries in Africa, the Near and Middle East, and Asia and has reached new areas including Europe in recent years, the statement said.

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In December 2016 the first reported outbreak in sheep and goats with spill-over of the disease to a wild antelope species was observed in Mongolia, and later in June this year it reached the EU, with a first-ever case reported in Bulgaria, FAO, EU, OIE said.

While the disease is highly lethal to small ruminants — killing up to 90 per cent of infected animals — it is easily preventable with inexpensive vaccines that can be administered at low cost.

At the one-day Brussels conference, countries also urged resource partners and the development community to held bridge a 340 million funding gap for the PPR Global Eradication Programme, according to the statement b FAO, EU and OIE.

“Our commitment to tackle animal diseases – like PPR – is also a response, to the wider challenges of migration, food security, poverty alleviation, resilience and global trade. And it is essential to our efforts to provide better jobs and prospects for women and young people in particular,” EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica said.

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Small ruminants are the primary resource of about 300 million people, FAO Director-General Graziano da Silva said, stressing that PPR’s elimination was key to sustainable development.

“The financial resources to eradicate PPR are not an expense, but an important investment that will result in future economic and social gains,” da Silva said.

“If we do not tackle the spread of PPR, the disease will increase poverty, hunger and also other forms of malnutrition. Eradicating PPR is fundamental for building a safer and more sustainable world.”

OIE Director-General Monique Eloit underlined that eradicating PPR would preserve the livelihoods of millions of poor families.

“The technical means and knowledge are available…reinforcing national Veterinary Services will be a key milestone in the achievement of this common goal,” Eloit said.

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Nearly 270 participants, among them ministers from over 45 PPR-infected and at-risk countries as well as high-level representatives from resource partners, international, regional, civil-society and non-governmental organisations attended the Brussels conference.

The event was preceded by a Stakeholders Forum, which gave the opportunity to exchange views and to collect first-hand testimonies on the grave impact of PPR, FAO the EU and OIE said.

–IANS/AKI

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