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Livestock for better nutrition and disease control–One Health Colloquium held this week at Chatham House


Stacked farm animal figurine (from zulily on Pinterest).

One Health Colloquium
Sustainable Livestock, Disease Control,
Climate Change and the Refugee Crisis

31 May–1 Jun 2016
Chatham House, London

The Centre on Global Health Security at Chatham House, London—which examines how global health challenges manifest themselves in foreign policy and international affairs—is looking at links between sustainable livestock systems and livestock disease control on the one hand and climate change, human nutrition and today’s refugee crisis on the other.

Today and tomorrow (31 May–1 Jun 2016), Chatham House, the Livestock Global Alliance (LGA), the One Health Platform and other One Health partners are convening senior policymakers, academics, multilateral development agencies, business leaders and other private-sector stakeholders to discuss these topics. Outcomes of the discussions will feed into a series of policy recommendations for multilateral agencies, opportunities for collaboration between the public and private sectors, and a research agenda for One Health approaches to sustainable livestock systems.

The invited participants—including representative from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the World Bank and the International Livestock Research Institution (ILRI)—are discussing livestock’s role in poverty reduction, sustainable livestock production systems, innovations in livestock vaccines and diagnostics and the value of establishing national and regional One Health centres of excellence to advise on links among agriculture, sustainable livestock systems and human development.

Two of the participants of this meeting are Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist at ILRI, where she leads a program on food safety and zoonoses, and Shirley Tarawali, ILRI assistant director general.

This meeting is being held under the Chatham House Rule, whereby participants are free to use the information received but neither the identity nor the affiliation of speakers or other participants may be revealed. Check back on the ILRI News and AgHealth blog sites at a later date for further reports on ILRI’s two presentations at this colloquium, which you can click through below.


The following is a program announcement about this colloquium from Chatham House, lightly edited for brevity.

Sustainable livestock systems and livestock disease control
links to climate change, human nutrition and the refugee crisis
Efforts to reduce poverty have been high on the development agenda since the United Nations established the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, with many successes having been achieved over the past 15 years. Although MDG 1, ‘Eradicating extreme hunger and poverty’, is yet to be achieved throughout the world, many countries made considerable advances toward this target before the subsequent Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted in Sep 2015.

In India, for example, the proportion of people with an income of less than one dollar a day was nearly halved between 2000 and 2012, while in Ethiopia, the percentage of people living below the national poverty line fell by 14% over the same 12-year period. The World Bank reports that much of the poverty reduction in Ethiopia is attributable to growth in agriculture, and the impact of livestock trade in reducing poverty more widely in the Horn of Africa region is well understood. The national economies of some countries in the Horn depend almost entirely on the trade of livestock (including Somalia, where 60% of the population derives a livelihood from the sector), and across other parts of Africa and the Middle East the livestock industry remains critical to food security.

As the global demand for animal food products rises—consumption of meat and dairy is estimated to rise by 76% by 2050—it is necessary to consider how the livestock industry can develop sustainably while balancing demands for animal-source foods in high- and low-consuming countries to meet global health and nutritional goals. There is pressing need for policymakers and other stakeholders to evaluate the ways in which the sector can contribute to future economic growth in line with the ambitions of the SDGs. This will require assessments not only of the contributions livestock have made in reducing poverty in low- and-middle-income countries, but also of the negative impacts of overconsuming livestock products on health and the environment. Livestock production will also need to be considered within the context of heightening resource scarcity and intensifying climate stresses.

Effective strategies will require coordinated engagement on two levels.

  • Multi-stakeholder commitment to identify how the sector can be managed and financed sustainably and how innovation in livestock vaccine development, diagnostics, disease surveillance and therapeutics can improve livestock production yields and animal welfare while reducing the negative health and environmental impacts of livestock production worldwide
  • Multi-stakeholder engagement to bring together governments, producers, retailers, the service industry and civil society to foster a shift to healthier, more sustainable patterns of global animal protein consumption

This two-track approach will underpin attempts to meet two linked SDGS—SDG 2, ‘End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture’, and SDG 13, ‘Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts’.

The role of proteins and micronutrients derived from livestock in meeting the nutritional demands of a rapidly growing worldwide human population is a key aspect of the debate that requires more attention. In many low- and middle-income countries, a range of initiatives has been introduced to improve nutrition—especially during pregnancy and early childhood years—while there have been concurrent calls in developed countries to reduce the consumption of livestock products as a means of mitigating livestock-generated greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. Consensus is lacking on the role a growing livestock industry might play in meeting future nutritional demands while remaining sensitive to the global challenges around climate change and to other issues such as antimicrobial resistance.

During the current global refugee crisis, increased scrutiny is also being paid to the potential for an increase in the prevalence of zoonotic vector-borne diseases, which are transmitted from animals to people via biting mosquitoes and other insects and ticks, and of other emerging zoonotic diseases in countries that host refugees and migrants. Competent vectors for several such infectious diseases, including malaria, leishmaniasis and schistosomiasis, are present in southern Europe, the Middle East and across parts of the Americas and Asia. The movement of humans and animals within and between these regions raises the potential for such zoonotic diseases to emerge in countries where cases have not been documented before.

Recent examples of this include outbreaks of the West Nile virus across sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, North Africa and North America. The growing number of Zika virus cases in Brazil and detection of the virus in neighbouring countries, as well as the re-emergence of malaria in Greece, are the latest demonstrations that no geographical region can remain immune to novel or re-emerging zoonotic infections. The One Health implications of migration and the movement of people and livestock on disease transmission, although evident, are not well explored; nor are cost-effective strategies for improving disease control among refugee populations, including preventive measures through vector control, vaccination and improved diagnostics and surveillance.

While there no systematic association has been made between migration and the importation of infectious diseases, the factors influencing migration, including poverty, conflict and economic hardship, increase the risk for communicable diseases, including zoonoses. For example, pastoralism—the use of extensive grazing on rangelands for livestock production—which often involves the movement of livestock across borders in tropical and sub-tropical regions, is known to increase the potential for vector-borne diseases to emerge in new territories.

While no intervention can stop the movement of disease vectors and pathogens across borders, improved disease surveillance in animal populations can detect outbreaks at an early stage and help prevent their spread. Use of vaccines and rapid diagnostic tools and establishment of regional One Health centres of excellence can significantly mitigate such threats to both human and animal health.

But questions remain. Can regional centres be sufficiently empowered to manage the spectrum of One Health approaches to zoonotic disease control in humans and animals—from human behaviour change and social interventions for prevention to surveillance of infections and antimicrobial resistance to preparedness and response to outbreaks? And can the myriad parallel initiatives operating across Africa and other tropical regions be harmonized to create regional networks that can serve as repositories for expert One Health advice on how livestock systems impinge on development?

The Centre on Global Health Security at Chatham House is addressing these interrelated issues and questions through the following topics in this two-day colloquium:

  1. The roles of livestock in poverty reduction and improving nutrition and their implications for climate change mitigation
  2. Sustainable livestock production—funding mechanisms and the impacts on global development
  3. The One Health implications of mass migration in humans and animals
  4. Knowledge transfer, disease control and innovation in vaccines and diagnostics—the case for regional One Health centres of excellence

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