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Gambia celebrates Global Eradication of Rinderpest Disease

Aug 4, 2011, 1:50 PM | Article By: Abdou Rahman Sallah

The FAO Banjul office in partnership with the Gambia Veterinary Association, the Ministry of Agriculture, EU and other partners, at the weekend, held a day-long seminar on Global Eradication of Rinderpest at the Ocean Bay Hotel in Bakau Cape Point.

Alhaji Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, former president of the Republic of The Gambia, was in attendance with government senior officials.

The celebration also marked the 250th anniversary of the creation of the veterinary profession in Lyon, France, which makes it a remarkable day for the profession.

Ada Gaye, 2nd permanent secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, stated that in The Gambia agriculture contributes 24% of the Gross Domestic Product with livestock contributing about 8.6%.

A recent livestock head count shows the cattle population is estimated at 300,000, sheep at 200,000, goats at 374,000 and chicken population at 720,000.

According to her, high incidence of infectious animal diseases is a constraint limiting livestock production and productivity in The Gambia.

“Diseases generate a major impact on public health, national economy, household livelihood among others,” she noted, saying that there are endemic diseases, such as Pest de Petit Ruminants (PPR), Black Quarter Disease, Hemorrhagic Septicaemia in cattle, New Castle Disease in poultry and other trans-boundary diseases like Lumpy Skin Diseases, African Swine Fever, African Horse Sickness and Rift Valley Fever.

The emergence of these diseases is often triggered by multiple interrelated factors that include human and animal demographics, she says.

She also said the current approaches to animal disease prevention and control based on the disruption of the disease transmission, have proved effective in both short and long-term disease control programmes, such as the Global Rinderpest Eradication.

Babagana Ahmadu, FAO Rep to The Gambia, pointed out that during the 37th FAO conference the 192 member countries of the UN FAO adopted a resolution declaring global freedom from Rinderpest, making it the first animal disease to be eliminated, thanks to human efforts, and second disease of any kind, after smallpox in humans.

According to him, in 1994 the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme was launched after series of consultations, to gather recommendations from experts around the world.

Since 1994 FAO has spearheaded the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme with international agencies, and countries’ supports have been fundamental towards the achievement of Rinderpest eradication, particularly for the poorest countries, the country FAO boss says.

For his part, Girogio Balarro, EU representative to The Gambia, said it is historical that Rinderpest “is the first animal disease ever to be eradicated” by humankind.

“This is a major breakthrough not only for science but also for the co-operation policies amongst international organisations and with the international community as a whole,” Mr Balarro said.

Dr Badara Loum, president of Gambia Veterinary Association, in his remarks on the occasion, said his association was founded in 1967 with the primary objective of promoting the interest of the veterinary and allied sciences.

“The eradication of Rinderpest disease signifies a very important milestone in the history of the veterinary profession to get rid of epizootic disease that poses serious threat to the viable livestock industries,” he said.

Director of animal health and production and head of veterinary, Kebba Daffeh, also spoke at length on the importance of the event.

Dr Daffeh said the joint action of veterinary scientific community, international and regional organisations, governments and farmers, have been absolutely crucial.