action now ... is more important than ever
Rinderpest eradication by 2010
WITHIN the next decade there is a very real prospect
that rinderpest will become, like smallpox in humans, a
disease of the past. Today, as we enter a new millennium,
progress made by the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme
(GREP), has limited the disease to a small number of sites in
eastern Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. But the
spectre of cattle plague, with its devastating epidemics of
the past, continues to be a threat as long as these few small
areas harbour rinderpest. So, intensified action for these
remaining pockets of rinderpest infection is being promoted
and co-ordinated by FAO under GREP.
The control of
rinderpest to the point we are at today has been a remarkable
triumph for veterinary science and national commitment but it has
not been achieved without setbacks. As recently as the 1980s,
rinderpest raged across Africa, and this occurred at a time when the
disease was thought to have been beaten after a very successful
international vaccination campaign through the 1960s and 1970s. But
with hindsight, the campaign stopped too soon and, from small
remaining pockets of infection, the disease escaped. Countries were
not prepared, the cattle vulnerable and the cattle plague spread
rapidly, just as it had nearly a century before, when the majority
of domestic cattle and susceptible wildlife were killed in a broad
swathe across sub-Saharan Africa. A similar pattern of rinderpest
epidemics was also experienced in Asia in the 1980s when the disease
spread back from South Asia to borders of Europe. The lesson of
these events is that near eradication is not good enough.
Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme links rinderpest campaigns
in Africa, and Asia and collaborates with national, regional and
other international organizations to provide a forum through which
activities can be co-ordinated and to which technical support can be
given. The Secretariat is located within the Animal Health Service
of FAO in Rome.
complete eradication possible?
The world is on course to total eradication by 2010 as long as
commitment is sustained – complacency is the enemy.
remains to be done?
last few foci of the disease must be located, contained and
eliminated. Where there are suspicions that the disease could be
lurking, these must be verified and dealt with. This needs
innovative community-based programmes in remote and insecure areas.
The means are available, all we need to do is apply
if we stop now?
from the waste of all the effort and money over the years, the risk
of the disease spreading back with its inevitable devastating effect
on livestock farming, food security, rural incomes and international
trade is too great to contemplate.
cost of continuing?
estimated that about US$ 12 million could be enough to eradicate
disease from the last four foci. Compare this to the US$ 2 billion
estimated total loss from the outbreaks in Africa alone in the
1980s, and with the estimated US$ 100 million spent each year
world-wide on vaccination, money that could be saved by total
eradication of the disease.
is total eradication to be achieved?
internationally accepted OIE Pathway is a timetable for the route to
benefits from a world free from rinderpest?
Ultimately everyone benefits through greater global
food security, enhanced international trade, and conservation of
Rinderpest can pass between wildlife and cattle but
once the disease is eliminated from cattle it dies out naturally in
wildlife. Eradication of rinderpest, thus, serves to safeguard the
wildlife heritage as well as rural livelihoods dependent on
define, contain and eliminate the last foci of rinderpest
remove doubts about rinderpest persistence
persuade uncommitted countries to endorse GREP
strengthen rinderpest surveillance and emergency
ensure cessation of unnecessary mass vaccination
Eliminating rinderpest from the world will help to
improve food security and the livelihood of the rural poor. In this
sense, the battle against rinderpest is also the fight against
poverty. It can be done, but a last effort is needed to ensure that
the job is finished through true commitment of all