Pork is the most consumed meat in the world, representing 35.6% of global meat consumption, but in recent years, African swine fever (ASF) has become a major crisis for the pork industry, causing massive losses in pig populations and generating drastic economic consequences, according to a joint statement from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO).
To support countries’ efforts to protect economies and food security, the international agencies launched a joint "Initiative for the Global Control of ASF" July 20 and called on countries and partners to unite against this deadly pig disease by joining the initiative.
With several countries of Africa, Asia and the Pacific and Europe currently affected — and with no effective vaccine — ASF is not only impeding animal health and welfare but has detrimental impacts on the livelihoods of farmers, OIE and FAO said.
“Today, 51 countries are affected by African swine fever. Amid the difficult situation posed by COVID-19, ASF continues to spread, intensifying the current health and socioeconomic crises,” said Dr. Matthew Stone, OIE deputy director general for international standards and science.
Many countries that are affected by ASF lack sufficient human, financial or technical resources to rapidly detect, respond to and contain animal diseases, OIE and FAO said.
“In this globalized world, where diseases can spread rapidly across borders, timely sharing of latest scientific information, international collaboration and notification of ASF are needed to prevent transboundary spread and minimize impact,” FAO deputy director-general Maria Helena Semedo said.
Building upon the experience of the long-standing collaboration between OIE and FAO for the management of animal health-related risks, the joint Global Framework for the Progressive Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases (GF-TADs) developed the new global initiative with the aim of fostering national, regional and global partnerships to strengthen control measures and to minimize the impact of this complex and challenging disease.
According to the announcement, the initiative aims to:
- Improve the capability of countries to control (prevent, respond to and eradicate) ASF using OIE International Standards and best practices based on the latest science.
- Establish an effective coordination and cooperation framework for the global control of ASF.
- Facilitate business continuity, ensuring safe production and trade to protect food systems.
Coordinated actions as part of the ASF initiative should take place alongside maintaining transparency around animal disease reporting and investing in strong and resilient animal health systems, the agencies said.
The global initiative builds on previous regional efforts and follows recommendations of ASF experts from around the world, OIE and FAO said. It aims to strengthen the ability of national veterinary services to manage risks through the development and implementation of ASF national control programs, with public and private sectors working in partnership. Risk communication with the relevant stakeholders will be a crucial element to effectively address risk pathways and high-risk practices.
On a global scale, the sustained spread of ASF poses a threat to food security, economic and rural development, OIE and FAO said, explaining that the disease represents a barrier to the agriculture sector in reaching its full potential, generating employment and alleviating poverty as well as acting as a disincentive to investment in the pig sector.
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