The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Federal Government have initiated a public awareness strategy to educate livestock owners and veterinary officers on the impact of trans-boundary livestock diseases.
Mr Patrick David, the FAO Representative in Nigeria, made this known at a workshop in Abuja.
He said that the strategy would consolidate the successes recorded during the eradication of rinderpest and sustain the rinderpest-free status of the country.
Rinderpest — also known as cattle plague or steppe murrain — is a contagious viral disease affecting cattle, domestic buffalo, large antelope and deer, giraffes, wildebeests, and warthogs.
David said that the workshop was also targeted at enhancing the communication capacity of pastoralists and policy makers to avoid the re-occurrence of rinder-pest and other trans-boundary livestock diseases.
He noted that livestock accounted for one-third of Nigeria’s agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP), providing income, employment, food, energy, transport and manure.
He said that the workshop was in line with the global mandate of FAO to facilitate the evolution of a world free from hunger and malnutrition.
David listed some trans-boundary livestock diseases that needed urgent attention as Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR), foot and mouth disease, lumpy skin disease and brucellosis.
“There is need to reduce the burden of the high impact of trans-boundary animal diseases in Nigeria. It is with global approaches that we are engaging with the Nigerian Government in implementation of awareness raising strategies on rinderpest and related trans-boundary animal diseases through communication for development tools. FAO, together with its partners, is committed to tackling these diseases,’’ he said.
Dr Gideon Mshelbwala, the Director, Veterinary and Pest Control Services, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that Nigeria was declared rinderpest-free by the World Organisation for Animal Health in 2010.
He explained that the current public awareness activity was to ensure effective monitoring, aimed at achieving emergency preparedness capacity in the country.
“Although, the rinderpest virus is currently not in circulation in the country but the world still remains vulnerable to the re-occurrence of the disease, knowing that some samples containing the virus are still being stored in laboratories,’’ he said.
Also, Samia Metwally, a Senior Animal Health Officer with the FAO, listed some symptoms of rinderpest infection in livestock as fever, oral and nasal erosion, salivation, diarrhoea, dehydration and death.
She assured livestock handlers that the organisation would provide anti-rinderpest vaccines in the event of the re-occurrence of the animal disease in the country.
Dr David Shamaki, the Acting Executive Director of the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), Vom, said that the institute was committed to producing vaccines to help reduce trans-boundary animal diseases in the country.
Similarly, Alhaji Abdullahi Ardo, the Secretary, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria in Plateau, recalled that rinderpest infection once devastated the country’s livestock industry.
He commended the efforts of the NVRI for developing the vaccine for the disease.
Ardo, however, said that livestock diseases like foot and mouth disease, anthrax and lumpy skin disease were currently affecting livestock in the country.
Stakeholders in the livestock industry from various states across the country attended the one-day workshop.