Liberia Makes Strides towards One Health Goals

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Liberia has made tremendous strides towards its One Health agenda—efforts that prompted international partners who gathered at this year’s World One Health Day celebration, to lavished praise on the country.

The partners, including the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), GIZ and AFENET-Liberia lauded the country for adapting and advancing the global concept, which seeks to work in a concerted way to address shared health threats that human-animal-environment interface.

One Health is a collaborative, multi-sectoral, and trans-disciplinary approach — working at the local, regional, national, and global levels — with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment.

The government has since begun working on the preparation of a One Health governance manual that would ensure that the concept, approved globally in 2016 on the heels of the Ebola virus disease outbreak, is domesticated as a national policy. The manual is currently undergoing revision to ensure that it is adopted soon. The program came out of the lessons learned from the Ebola crisis that ravished Liberia and her neighbors, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

A Joint Risk Assessment and the One Health Mapping and policy analysis study for Liberia funded under Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) project has also been underway.

“All of these initiatives are intended to ensure that Liberia achieves its One Health goal,” FAO team leader at the celebration over the weekend, Dr. Ibrahim Ahmed, said, “FAO recently supported the review of the OH governance manual,  the Joint Risk Assessment and the OH Mapping and policy analysis study.” Dr. Ahmed spoke on behalf of his boss, FAO Country Representative, Mariatou N’jei.

“We want to seek a wealthier world so there is a need to prioritize the wellbeing of not only mankind but animals as well as the environment,” he noted.

Within the one health context of detecting, controlling  and prevention of Zoonotic diseases, FAO recently finalized the construction and equipping of the  Animal Quarantine Center including a  laboratory  in Ganta that were finally handed over to the government.

The weekend event was also a combined celebration of World Rabies Day (WRD), One Health Day (OHD) and the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW).

OHD provides an opportunity for experts and the community to join together in One Health education and awareness. Communication, coordination, and collaboration among partners working in animal, human, and environmental health as well as other relevant areas are an essential part of the One Health approach, One Health Platform, the national group that is spearheading the initiative, stated at the celebration. “Working together allows us to have the biggest impact on improving health for people, animals, and our shared environment,” an official of the group noted.

This global health concept endeavors to attain optimal health outcomes recognizing the interaction between people, animals, plants, and their common environment, and according to GIZ’s Director of Health, Daniel Lohmann, there is a need not to only support the idea, but to also to educate the public and other stakeholders about One Health as well as share experiences, resources and challenges.

“GIZ is working in three counties in the Southeast and this is the idea that we are promoting there,” he said.

“We are not taking good care of the environment and that is why we get the backlashes at times with the outbreak of diseases and the impacts of climate change. Everything is interconnected and so we have to care for and protect everything,” Mr. Lohmann noted. “Many people may not realize the impact they can have on improving human, animal, and environmental health, but everyone has a role to play.”

More Domestic Animals are being vaccinated

September 28, 2021 marked the 15th World Rabies Day (WRD) which was held under the theme, “Rabies: Facts, not Fear.” The celebration focused on sharing facts about rabies and dispelling myths or misconceptions.

The activities not only focused on vaccination of dogs against Rabies but also on advocacy, action and awareness.

Over 50 dogs were vaccinated as a kick-off to the all year round vaccinations against Rabies for dogs.

The FAO has been heading this exercise. “I am pleased to note that these vaccinations have continued and will continue today and even long after this celebration as an endeavour to achieve the goal of Zero Rabies by the year 2030,” Dr. Ahmed said over the weekend.

As it relates to the observance of the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, he noted that the celebration is a reminder of the increasing global Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) as a major threat to human and animal health.

“It endangers modern human and veterinary medicine and undermines the safety of our food and environment,” Dr. Ahmed added.

Experts say that the misuse of these drugs, associated with the emergence and spread of antimicrobial- resistant microorganisms, places everyone at great risk. The risk appears particularly high in countries where legislation, regulatory surveillance and monitoring systems on the use of antimicrobials, and the prevention and control of Antimicrobial Resistance, are weak or inadequate.

FAO has been playing a key role in supporting governments, producers, traders and other stakeholders to move towards the responsible use of antimicrobials in agriculture, thus helping reduce Antimicrobial Resistance in agricultural systems, he noted.

“FAO Action Plan on AMR addresses four major focus areas, including improvement of awareness on AMR and related threats; development of capacity for surveillance and monitoring of AMR and AMU (antimicrobial use) in food and agriculture; Strengthening of governance related to AMU and AMR in food and agriculture and the promotion of good practices in food and agricultural systems and the prudent use of antimicrobials.”

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