FAO builds more epidemiology experts for Uganda

More veterinarians and paravets completed a one month of training in surveillance, disease outbreak investigation, risk communication and reporting, in FAO’s continued efforts to boost capacity of animal health workforce in Uganda, through the In-service Applied Veterinary Epidemiology Training (ISAVET) programme.

The 21 team  of in-service veterinary professionals were recently drawn from 19 districts across the country including; Adjumani, Amudat, Kasese, Kagadi, Kampala, Kiruhura, Kole, Kyenjojo, Luwero,  Lyantonde, Moroto, Nakasongola, Namutumba, Kamuli, Napak, Ngora, Ntungamo, Pallisa and  Rubirizi.  These will continue to undergo field attachment and mentor-mentee assisted training for another three months. This is the second cohort of trainees, following the the first cohort and pilot cohort that was hosted in Uganda in 2018. 

Following the 30-day intense training, a joint farmer-trainee-trainer feedback workshop on livestock value chains was held in a semi-personal mode with the panel and trainees in the meeting room and some veterinary officers and public in a virtual mode (zoom), organized by the FAO Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Disease Control (ECTAD).

The availability of field veterinarians and veterinary para-professionals in quantity and quality is essential in the field. This is even more important to establish close links with the local community at the front line in preparation or responding to events or epidemics. They are an essential link in effective surveillance, performing field surveys, and emergency response. In this regards, ISAVET provides “service training” to strengthen, through a multi-sectoral approach, the prevention, detection, early warning, rapid response, reporting and response to animal diseases including transboundary, endemic, emerging and re-emerging diseases. ISAVET trainees receive four weeks of classroom and tutorial instruction, followed by three months of field activities under the supervision of mentors at their workplace. ISAVET training is financial supported by FAO with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

ISAVET shows substantial results from common livestock diseases investigations

Several research topics related to the epidemiology of animal diseases were addressed by the ISAVET trainees (nine veterinary officers (public posts), two private veterinary officers (private sector), three animal husbandry officers, five assistant veterinary officers, one wildlife researcher and one veterinary laboratory technologist). Trainees will carry out diverse epidemiological research projects on priority zoonotic diseases (such as brucellosis, Rift Valley fever (RVF) and rabies) or transboundary animal diseases (such as peste des petits ruminants (PPR) and foot-and-mouth disease) and other animal health conditions like food safety and hygiene, antimicrobial usage and antimicrobial resistance.  The closure workshop involved group presentations on week long research carried out on cattle, poultry, pigs, goats and sheep in Luwero District, as well as providing feedback to the farmers whose animals were used for study purposes.

Speaking at the closure of part 1 of II training series, Country’s Chief Veterinary Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Anna Rose Ademun commended FAO for the continued support to the Livestock Industry in Uganda, which she said is helping to strengthen the capacity of veterinary professionals through continuous training, especially the ones targeting emerging diseases.

“I am happy to note the improvements in the training, right from the pilot cohort. Today, we have included farmers, to provide them with feedback on what we found in their animals, as well as advising them on the best ways to care for their animals.  This training is helping us to break the barriers between vets and the people who need veterinary services at the grassroot level,” said.

“As Government, we appreciate FAO and commit our support. We hope that FAO gets more funding to ensure that all of our vets undergone this ISAVET training.”

FAO Representative in Uganda, Dr. Antonio Querido, represented by Dr. Willington Bessongojong, declared that “We are aware that Uganda is a hot spot for many diseases that affect both animals and humans (zoonotic diseases) hence the need to align efforts to control epidemics at source before they expand or cross from animals to human beings”.

Ms Maureen Tushabirane, a Veterinary Officer in Kagadi District says that the training has been an amazing experience that has helped her open her mind to the real work of a field veterinary professional.

“I have learnt how to do active participatory disease surveillance, disease investigation, data entry and analysis, and reporting.  I have not been taking reporting seriously, sometimes we would do verbal reports but after this course, I feel competent enough to change things. I now know how important reporting is and I hope to change many things when I go back to Kagadi.” Says Maureen.

ISAVET works on the sustainability of livestock systems

With the support of FAO, through ECTAD, the ISAVET initiative addresses the need for capacity building and sustainability for the future of the region. Through ISAVET, the capacity of countries to anticipate, prepare for, respond to and overcome critical threats to human and animal health from emerging infectious diseases and transboundary animal diseases will be improved, taking into account the interface between human, animal and environmental health.

In Uganda, FAO is implementing the Frontline ISAVET together with Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) and partners to address zoonosis, emerging infectious diseases such as Ebola and COVID-19 and transboundary animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease or brucellosis. For sustainable implementation and growth of the ISAVET programme, FAO involves government ministries in decisions, ensures the programme is housed within each Ministry of Agriculture and/or Livestock, and advocates for ownership at country and regional levels.

This second cohort of ISAVET trainees follows the successful first edition of the programme, in which 20 district veterinary officers from 17 districts were selected to build the capacity of in-service field-level (frontline) veterinarians, creating a critical team of skilled frontline workers and experts who can conduct effective surveillance and outbreak response.

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