FAO Trains Veterinarians on data collation , animal disease epidemiology
AS part of its technical support to Nigeria to curb emerging animal diseases, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), through the Emergency Center for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) programme, is empowering veterinarians with capacity and skills for detecting and controlling emerging and transboundary animal diseases in the country.
FAO is also empowering field-based animal health professionals to prevent, control and respond to the spread of zoonotic diseases in Nigeria through the In-service Applied Veterinary Epidemiology Training (ISAVET) programme.
This recent move led to the training and empowering of 30 veterinarians selected from 26 states on how to report cases of animal diseases, collation of data and many more.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 70 percent of emerging infectious diseases in humans originate from animals.
During the concluding part of the training exercise which lasted for one month, one if the facilitators, Professor Asabe Dzikwi-Enennaa said the training is the In-Service Applied Veterinary Epidemiology Training (ISAVET) which targets at training frontline veterinarian on how to report and handle cases of infectious animal diseases.
She said the training exercise has a collection of 30 people that were trained and they have so far spent one month on ground, undergoing the training.
“There has been a series of classroom training, every week, we have new trainers that come in, and so they engage with them, there are specific topics that are handled every week, starting from surveillance, field investigation, ethics, and communication.
“The last week, which is week four, is the field week, they were out in the field for three days, they went to the livestock market, they also went to a pig farm, they learnt how to restrain animals, how to collect samples that will be used for detection of any disease in the laboratories.
“They also visited the Nyanya Veterinary Clinic, they were in the lab to do some work, recently, they went to a poultry farm, they were also taught biosecurity, on how to collect samples safely”, she explained.
Professor Dzikwi-Enennaa said the outdoor training has exposed the veterinarians to a field experience of something different from what they had been doing in the classroom.
She further stated that during week four, the mentors came in, each trainee is assigned to a mentor, a maximum of two trainees per mentor and they have been interacting and engaging with them.
The don said these mentors are going to be supervising the trainees work and mentoring them for the next three months that they will be out on the field and thereafter they will come back and defend what they have been doing out there.
“So, the idea is that they came from certain places which are their bases and after the training, they are expected to go back to their same places of work, and the whole idea is that there should be a difference how they were doing the work before and what they will do after this training so that we have a supervisor there who will be able to tell us that they have seen the impact of the training or not, so that is the idea of them going back to where they were working”, she noted.
She said the training is targeted at boosting the epidemiological skills and the output of the veterinarians out on the field to be able to detect diseases, to be able to report so that actions can be carried out.
“So, this is like a big boost to how animal diseases have been handled, so we have 30 additional hands, capacity has been built and we know that they are going to do something different from what we have been seeing, we are going to have good quality data that have been analyzed that will give us an idea, provide real information so that we can know what to do”, she added.
Dr Olaniran Alab, Chief Veterinary Officer of Nigeria and Director Department of Veterinary and Pest Control Services, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said before now, the country have been having issues around control of animal diseases.
“As you are aware, there are new emerging and reemerging diseases and we need to strengthen our surveillance systems so that we are able to detect some of these diseases in good time; and detecting these diseases in good time will make us respond early enough to reduce the effect of some of these diseases.
“So, the idea is to strengthen our surveillance systems, we are training them and they are going back to their states to see how they can strengthen the surveillance system within their states and, and they as the first cohort, it is a programme that we hope we can sustain for some time”, Dr Alabi said.
He said there is hope to train and empower another 30 veterinarians in the nearest future to further increase capacity across the country.
“Most of the personnel that are being trained are all government employees, there is no private person among them. So they are government personnel going back to strengthen the system in their states.
“We are trying to build their capacity, we have exposed them to training, classwork, we now want them to go and practicalise. So the idea is for them to go and see how things are done in other places, and experience other places before they go back,” he added.
Dr Ayodele Majekodunmi, National Project Coordinator FAO Emergency Centre for Trans-boundary Animal diseases explained that the main goal of the training is to give field veterinarians who are on that frontline trying to prevent and report animal diseases in Nigeria, the skills that they need to do their jobs.
She said training is expected to improve the surveillance and reporting of animal and zoonotic diseases across Nigeria and enable the country plan better to prevent these disease and avoid the social and economic negative aspect of these diseases.
“We have 30 veterinarians that can been trained from across 26 states, they are all public veterinarians who work for the state government and we envisage that at the end of this training, the state veterinary services across Nigeria will have an improved capacity to do disease surveillance within their territories and to have better prevention of livestock and zoonotic diseases”, she added.
On the partners for the training, Dr Majekodunmi said “the FAO Emergency Centre for Trans-boundary Animal Diseases has been the organizer, we have been supported by various partners like the Chief veterinary Officer of Nigeria at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, we have also been supported by African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), we also have the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) who provided the majority of the funding for this programme.
“We have been supported by the regulatory body, which are the Veterinary Council of Nigeria, and the National Veterinary Medical Association”.
One of the trainees, Dr Jacob Chinyere, Veterinary Officer, who works with Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture, Veterinary Department, and said the training was to make veterinarians work as epidemiologists.
“This programme was organised to ensure that we as veterinarians can continually work as Epidemiologists because they found a gap where diseases were either not reported properly or they have been under reporting or the entire surveillance system has been lacking.
“So because of that, there have been a reason to train veterinarians, even though veterinarians are been trained in other programs to become like field epidemiologist but this program is the first that will actually ensure that veterinarians and by extent Para-veterinarians can actually continually conduct surveillance and ensure that diseases are reported per unit time and there is completeness, timeliness to this report as well as some other characteristics to ensure that the diseases reported can be modified and summarized to ensure that it can actually allow for policy information”, he said.
He said there are already existing templates that they follow, so but with this training, they can actually improve on the templates which lacks many things.
“Normally, we already have templates that we follow, the pre-existing protocols that we follow currently can actually be improved upon because many things are lacking like the time for report or completeness of report, some of the challenges have been identified, I hope that by the time I go back and provide the platform to make sure that these things go properly”, Dr Chinyere added.
Another trainee, Dr Mujanat Musa, who is based in Sokoto State said “I really benefited a lot from this programme, there are many things that I was thinking that were not possible to be solved in my state, but with this program, I really learnt a lot, and I think I can handle it if I go my state, like collection of data, reporting diseases weekly and how to relate with our stakeholders in our states.”