Health


Locally made beef stew sold in Bagnon market at Yopougon, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (photo credit: ILRI/Valentin Bognan Koné).

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa launched its 2020 Africa Agriculture Status Report during the African Green Revolution Forum virtual summit hosted in Kigali, Rwanda on 8-11 September 2020.

This year’s report focuses on the challenges of feeding Africa’s cities and the opportunities available to smallholder farmers and agribusinesses to meet the needs of the continent’s fast growing urban food markets.

The report features a chapter on food safety and public health in urban food markets in Africa. Currently, Africa suffers from the highest per capita rate of foodborne illnesses in the world. The riskiest foods from a health perspective are animal-source foods, fruits and fresh vegetables. Consumption of these food products is rising rapidly in African cities.

Improving food safety in Africa’s urban food markets — both the dominant informal markets and the growing formal markets — will go a long way to safeguard the health of consumers and reduce the economic and health burden of foodborne illnesses.

Interventions include improving domestic market infrastructure, training of food handlers and increasing awareness of the shared responsibility of regulators and value chain actors to provide safe food.

Unsafe food directly undermines human health and jeopardises the attainment of national, continental and global development goals. For this reason, African governments urgently need to prioritize food safety and adopt policies and strategies that will ensure the delivery of adequate and safe food to urban markets.

Citation
Kang’ethe, E., Grace, D., Alonso, S., Lindahl, J., Mutua, F. and Haggblade, S. 2020. Food safety and public health implications of growing urban food markets. IN: AGRA, Africa Agriculture Status Report. Feeding Africa’s cities: Opportunities, challenges, and policies for linking African farmers with growing urban food markets. Issue 8. Nairobi, Kenya: Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). pp. 101–119.

A pastor and his dog, Yabello, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Camille Hanotte).

World Zoonoses Day is commemorated on 6 July every year to mark the day in 1885 when Louis Pasteur successfully administered the first vaccine against rabies, a deadly zoonotic disease. The day is also an occasion to raise awareness of the risk of zoonoses, infectious diseases that can be spread between animals and people.

On this year’s World Zoonoses Day, we highlight a new research study published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases (July 2020) that reports on the development, implementation and effectiveness of grassroots mass dog vaccination campaigns against rabies conducted in 2015, 2016 and 2017 in Laikipia County, Kenya.

According to the World Health Organization, rabies kills tens of thousands of people every year, mainly in Asia and Africa. Globally, rabies causes an estimated cost of US$ 8.6 billion per year. Dog bites are responsible for 99% of all cases of human rabies. Therefore, vaccinating dogs is the most cost-effective way to prevent rabies in people.

The research study found that while grassroots volunteer-based dog vaccination campaigns against rabies can be useful, these efforts need to be supported at a larger scale by county and national governments for a more sustainable approach towards eradicating the disease. Below is the author summary.

“Given the importance of mass vaccinations of domestic dogs towards eliminating human rabies in Africa and the site-specific challenges facing such campaigns, additional studies on the development and implementation of such efforts are needed.

One mechanism of mass vaccination lies in grassroots efforts that often begin at a very local scale and either develop into larger campaigns, remain local, or cease to persist past several years once interest and funding is exhausted.

Here, we discuss the development of a grassroots campaign in Laikipia County, Kenya from its local inception to its development into a county-wide rabies elimination effort.

Our results highlight challenges associated with achieving the targeted 70% coverage rate, including a need for consistent and systematic demographic monitoring of dog populations, limitations of the central point method, and logistical and financial challenges facing a volunteer-based effort.

Serious political commitment from both the local and national governments are necessary to take the budget beyond what a crowdfunded campaign can raise, including availability and access to quality dog rabies vaccines.

Without such outside support and substantial time to grow, grassroots campaigns might be better relegated to raising awareness and vaccinating dogs in small communities to protect those communities directly, without contributing to the broader ecosystem-wide transmission-stopping aim often sought by government human health and veterinary organizations.”

Citation

Ferguson, A.W., Muloi, D., Ngatia, D.K., Kiongo, W., Kimuyu, D.M., Webala, P.W., Olum, M.O., Muturi, M., Thumbi, S.M., Woodroffe, R., Murugi, L., Fèvre, E.M., Murray, S. and Martins, D.J. 2020. Volunteer based approach to dog vaccination campaigns to eliminate human rabies: Lessons from Laikipia County, Kenya. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 14(7): e0008260.

Farming scene in the highlands of Ethiopia (ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has focused global attention on the interconnectedness of people, animals and the environment and how this links to the spread of zoonotic diseases, two postdoctoral scientists affiliated with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are among five recipients of this year’s Soulsby Fellowships, awarded to support early career researchers in human or veterinary medicine working on One Health projects. 

One Health can be defined as the collaborative efforts of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment.

The two postdoctoral scientists, Lisa Cavalerie from the University of Liverpool and Mark Nanyingi from the University of Liverpool and the University of Nairobi, are collaborators in the One Health Regional Network for the Horn of Africa project, a multidisciplinary international partnership that is working to improve the health and wealth of people in the Horn of Africa through One Health research.

Lisa Cavalerie, a veterinary epidemiologist, will study the benefits and risks of livestock ownership to maternal health in women in Ethiopia. She says: ‘The aim of the study will be to develop sustainable livestock health management to improve both maternal and child health.’

Mark Nanyingi, an infectious disease epidemiologist, will investigate the presence of Rift Valley fever virus in people, livestock and mosquitoes in Kenya. He aims to develop a human-animal integrated surveillance system which will inform national policy- and decision-making in the event of outbreaks. ‘This study will enhance our understanding of the geographical risk, distribution and genetic diversity of the virus,’ says Nanyingi.

We congratulate them on their awards and wish them all the best as they undertake their research projects.

Read more about the Soulsby Foundation and the other 2020 Soulsby Fellows.

Roadside market. Mozambique, Angonia province (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

As the impacts of COVID-19 spread across the globe, the virus threatens more than health systems worldwide. It also poses serious risks to food security, local businesses, national economies and hard-fought progress by stakeholders at all levels towards the Sustainable Development Goals. The global response to the pandemic must be swift and science-based, harnessing knowledge for emergency response, recovery and resilience.

Research leaders in health and agriculture have launched a new COVID-19 Hub to consolidate existing scientific evidence and help support response, recovery and resilience measures in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. As United Nations Secretary General António Guterres warned recently, immediate action on food systems is needed to prevent a global food emergency that could have long-term health effects.

The CGIAR COVID-19 Hub, coordinated by CGIAR, the world’s largest publicly funded agricultural research network, brings together the latest science on agriculture and health to inform a research-based response to the pandemic.

The International Livestock Research Institute joins the International Food Policy Research Institute, the CGIAR System Organization and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine as co-implementers of the CGIAR COVID-19 Hub.

Hosted by the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, the Hub provides a coordinated research response to the pandemic, convening researchers, funders and key stakeholders.

It focuses on supporting national response and recovery work across CGIAR research themes through the response, recovery and resilience phases of the pandemic, with work from across CGIAR’s global network of 14 research centres and 15 research programs and platforms, in close collaboration with other research organizations, policymakers, non-governmental organizations and many other stakeholders.

World Food Safety Day 2020 poster

To mark the second World Food Safety Day that will be celebrated on 7 June 2020, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has launched an online food safety campaign and landing page at https://www.ilri.org/world-food-safety-day-2020

The campaign draws attention to ILRI’s long-standing collaborative research on risk-based approaches to improving food safety in informal markets. 

On the landing page you will find a set of key messages on food safety in informal markets as well as links to news, projects, publications, photos and videos on food safety. You will also be able to read the profiles of some of the ILRI experts involved in food safety research. 

Also featured on the page are the voices of some of our partners who share in the mission of working to ensure that the food we buy and eat is safe. 

Remember: there is no food security without food safety and if it is not safe, it is not food!

Join the online conversations by following the hashtags #FoodSafety, #SafeFood and #WorldFoodSafetyDay.

A4NH 2019 annual report cover

The CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) has just released its 2019 annual report, highlighting activities and accomplishments from its five research flagships, cross-cutting work on gender and equity, and partnerships that have led to research outcomes in over 20 countries.

These include:

  • empowering stakeholders at national level to build food systems that support healthier diets;
  • generating research evidence on the nutritional and health benefits of biofortification;
  • supporting international developments in food safety with quality research and engagement;
  • engaging in global conversations on food systems, nutrition and diets; and
  • linking research and policy to achieve results on critical zoonotic diseases.

Access the A4NH 2019 annual report or read the interactive online summary.

Maize. Mozambique, Tete province, Pacassa village (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

In sub-Saharan Africa, contamination of dairy feed with mycotoxins has been frequently reported. Mycotoxins pose a threat to animal health and productivity and are a hazard to human health as some mycotoxins and their metabolites are excreted in milk, such as aflatoxin M1.

A new review paper published in the journal Toxins (April 2020) describes the major mycotoxins, their occurrence and their impact in dairy cattle diets in sub-Saharan Africa, highlighting the problems related to animal health, productivity and food safety and the latest post-harvest mitigation strategies to prevent and reduce contamination of dairy feed with mycotoxins.

Citation
Kemboi, D.C., Antonissen, G., Ochieng, P.E., Croubels, S., Okoth, S., Kang’ethe, E.K., Faas, J., Lindahl, J.F. and Gathumbi, J.K. 2020. A review of the impact of mycotoxins on dairy cattle health: Challenges for food safety and dairy production in sub-Saharan Africa. Toxins 12(4): 222.

Cows walk along an irrigation canal in Niolo, Mali (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

As part of a special COVID-19 series by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Bernard Bett and Delia Randolph of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and John McDermott of IFPRI write on the growing risk in Africa of pathogens that spread from animals to people and how we can learn from past epidemics to improve preparedness and response.

In their article, the scientists discuss the evolving patterns of emergence and spread of zoonotic pathogens, factors that might influence the spread of emerging zoonotic pathogens and the opportunities for controlling emerging infectious diseases in Africa. 

They write: “The record thus far on COVID-19 and on past disease outbreaks shows that early, effective and sustained response is essential to winning the battle over these diseases. Innovative use of information and communication tools and platforms and engagement of local communities are crucial to improved disease surveillance and effective response. Building these systems requires demand from the public and commitment from policymakers and investors.” 

Read the full article, Africa’s growing risk of diseases that spread from animals to people, originally posted on the IFPRI website.

Bernard Bett is a senior scientist with ILRI’s Animal and Human Health program, Delia Randolph is the co-leader of ILRI’s Animal and Human Health program and John McDermott is the director of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. The analysis and opinions expressed in the article are of the authors alone.

A local cattle owner walks his cattle on a rainy day in Hung Yen province, Vietnam (photo credit: ILRI/Nguyen Ngoc Huyen).

The One Health concept promotes the enhancement of human, animal and ecosystem health through multi-sectoral governance support and policies to combat health security threats.

In Vietnam, antimicrobial resistance in animal and human health settings poses a significant threat, but one that could be minimised by adopting a One Health approach to antimicrobial resistance surveillance.

Vietnam is a potential hotspot for the emergence of antimicrobial resistance due to the high burden of infectious diseases that are directly transmissible and that are foodborne, coupled with limited enforcement of regulations to penalise non-compliance, and the relatively unregulated access to antimicrobials for humans and high antimicrobial usage for livestock.

To advance understanding of the willingness and abilities of the human and animal health sectors to investigate antimicrobial resistance through a One Health approach, a recent study published in BMC Public Health (February 2020) explored the perceptions and experiences of those tasked with investigating antimicrobial resistance in Vietnam, and the benefits a multi-sectoral approach offers.

The study used qualitative methods to provide key informants’ perspectives from the animal and human health sectors. Two scenarios of foodborne antimicrobial resistance bacteria found within the pork value chain were used as case studies to investigate challenges and opportunities for improving collaboration across different stakeholders and to understand benefits offered by a One Health approach surveillance system.

Fifteen semi-structured interviews with 11 participants from the animal and six from the human health sectors at the central level in Hanoi and the provincial level in Thai Nguyen were conducted.

Eight themes emerged from the transcripts of the interviews. From the participants’ perspectives on the benefits of a One Health approach: (1) communication and multi-sectoral collaboration, (2) building comprehensive knowledge and (3) improving likelihood of success. Five themes emerged from participants’ views of the challenges to investigate antimicrobial resistance: (4) diagnostic capacity, (5) availability and access to antibiotics, (6) tracing ability within the Vietnamese food chain, (7) personal benefits and (8) Managing the system.

The findings of the study suggest that there is potential to strengthen multi-sectoral collaboration between the animal and human health sectors in Vietnam by building on existing informal networks.

Based on these results, the authors of the study recommend an inclusive approach to multi-sectoral communication supported by government network activities to facilitate partnerships and create cross-disciplinary awareness and participation.

The themes relating to diagnostic capacity show that both the animal and human health sectors face challenges in carrying out investigations on antimicrobial resistance although based on the results, there is a greater need to strengthen the animal health sector.

Citation
Mitchell, M.E.V., Alders, R., Unger, F., Hung Nguyen-Viet, Trang Thi Huyen Le and Toribio, J.-A. 2020. The challenges of investigating antimicrobial resistance in Vietnam – what benefits does a One Health approach offer the animal and human health sectors? BMC Public Health 20: 213.

Women waiting to fetch water as cattle drink from a water pan in Taita Taveta, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/ Juliet Kariuki)

Ecohealth approaches are designed to promote the health of people, animals and ecosystems with attention to social and ecological justice, sustainability and the relationships required to achieve a healthy future. Ecohealth approaches rely on systems thinking and the complementary efforts of transdisciplinary teams.

For the last 15 years, the global ecohealth community has been bringing together individuals and organizations to discuss ecohealth approaches. This year, the eighth biennial ecohealth conference will be held in Durban, South Africa on 22–26 June 2020. 

Participants at ecohealth 2020 are expected to include researchers, policymakers, community leaders, postgraduate students, government departments and non-governmental organizations working on ecohealth approaches towards sustainable management of the health of people, animals and ecosystems.

The organizers of the conference have extended the deadline for the submission of abstracts to 25 March 2020

To register and submit an abstract, please visit https://ecohealth2020.co.za.

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