Rinderpest was once a fatal cattle disease that led to huge losses in livestock production. Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) is also a similar and contagious disease which affects sheep and goats. For quite a long period of time, PPR has been a major burden in the socio-economic activities of countries where the livelihoods of a large portion of their population depends on livestock. Controlling and eradicating the prevalence of PPR will play a decisive role in improving the livelihood of farmers in developing countries and in ensuring food security.
Since PPR is a disease of small ruminants, its prevalence is a huge burden for livestock keepers. As an epidemic, PPR affects a large population of sheep and goats thus causing socio-economic burden. According to a report from the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), PPR has been endemic all over Eritrea since 1994. There have been several outbreaks all over the country. At the beginning, the mortality rate was very high as the disease was epidemic and the population of small ruminants was very susceptible. There were many outbreaks and the disease remains the main headache of livestock keepers.
Considering a large portion of the Eritrean people depends on livestock, the socio-economic burden of such a challenge is not seen lightly. Annual vaccination programs that are aimed at tackling the problem are carried out throughout the nation. Had the compulsory vaccination and ring vaccination not been carried out, huge economic loss would have occurred.
The MoA launched massive awareness raising programs on PRR, in collaboration with Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) through various media outlets. They also conducted extensive surveillance activities on the distribution of PPR.
Mr. Afewerki Mehreteab, head of Animal and Plant Health Division in the MoA, said that besides the massive awareness raising campaigns, training on PPR was given to agriculture experts in collaboration with the MoA’s Animal Health Unit.
Reports from FAO indicate that PPR was first reported in Côte d’Ivoire in 1942. In 2007, China reported PPR for the first time and in 2008, an outbreak occurred in Morocco making it the first time for the disease to appear in North Africa. In 2015, the OIE/FAO Global Strategy for the Control and Eradication of PPR was endorsed, with the vision of eradicating the disease by 2030. In 2016, PPR entered Europe, after reported outbreaks in Georgia.
In Eritrea, PPR was first detected in 1993 in Tserona. The disease spread further to all parts of the country in 1994 and affected a large number of sheep and goats leading to huge losses to farmers and the overall economy of the country.
The underlying principle of the Government of Eritrea is to control and eradicate any possible threat from contagious animal diseases and, thereby, to improve the living standards of farmers.
In a period between 2013 and 2014, new PPR outbreak was detected in the country and, thus, MoA, in collaboration with FAO, launched mass awareness raising campaigns and charted out concrete plans to eradicate the disease.
According to Mr. Afewerki, in 2015 compulsory mass vaccination programs were carried out in response to overt outbreaks in different areas of the country. Consequently, PPR outbreak was substantially reduced. The vaccination program to all sheep and goats were carried out in two phases. In the second phase a revaccination program was launched to ensure no sheep or goat remains unvaccinated.
A total of 17 outbreaks were detected in 2004 but late in 2017 only two PPR incidents were discovered in some hot spot areas. Mr. Afewerki said, “Intensive vaccination and follow up will soon commence in order to control the prevalence and further spread of PPR.”
The wide distribution of PPR has created urgency for worldwide combat. The eradication of rinderpest in 2011 at a global level was a major relief in the provision of animal health services. A progressive control or eradication of PVR both at regional and global levels is also expected to ease the threat of production loss in sheep and goats.
So far vaccination has been the main tool for controlling and eradicating PPR, thereby reducing its negative socio-economic impact. The vaccination program is set to cover a 100 % of the small ruminants that are over 3 months old for a minimum of two successive years, followed by revaccination to the already vaccinated and new ones if necessary.In March 2015, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and FAO officially launched a new program to eradicate PPR by 2030 at a global level.
Owing to the mass vaccination programs so far carried out, Eritrea has successfully implemented two of the four stages of Global Strategy for the Control and Eradication of PPR jointly developed by OIE and FAO. The global strategy covers three components to be implemented in four stages through a step-by-step approach. The four stages range from stage one; when the epidemic is being assessed, to stage four; when the country provides evidence that there is no incidence and last when the country is ready to apply for the OIE official status of freedom from PPR.
Eritrea is currently at stage two. Assessment has already been carried out and vaccination programs have been implemented. “Eritrea will soon start to implement stage threeeradication of PPR and each stage will be implemented in a period of three years and the global strategy to eradicate PPR will be fully implemented in a period between 7 to 10 years,” Mr. Afewerki elaborated.
Mr. Afewerki reaffirms that Eritrea will implement the global strategy to eradicate PPR before the deadline set by OIE and FAO.
The demand for livestock and livestock products is expected to be influenced with an ever growing population size. So, farmers in Eritrea will depend mainly on the reproduction of small ruminants. Therefore, the importance of preventing and eradicating is increasingly becoming a priority due to an ever increasing demand. A more effective time-bound strategy is, therefore, required in order to play a significant role in achieving the set out goal of PPR eradication.
Around 65% of the Eritrean people earn their living by raising sheep and goats. Raising large ruminants is becoming increasingly difficult as a result of the ensuing lack of grazing areas. In such places, the importance of sheep and goats in fulfilling the role once played by cattle for meat, milk and manure production is being recognized. The increased demand for sheep and goat meat has also increased their importance in lowland pastoral areas as a source of cash income, food security, etc. They provide their owners with a vast range of products such as meat, milk, skin as well as manure.
A total eradication of PPR will create ample opportunities in boosting the number of livestock and which will in turn contribute to the overall economic growth at a national level.