New collaborative Global Burden of Animal Diseases program launched

ILRI/Yvane Marblé).

Animal health leaders and researchers from the Global Burden of Animal Diseases (GBADs) program have secured US$ 7 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to roll out a framework on measuring animal health burdens and their impacts on human lives and economies.

The information provided by the GBADs program will guide public policy and private sector strategy, contributing to improve animal health and welfare more effectively. It will also be a basis for further academic research.

Across the world, livestock production and aquaculture are critical to human nutrition and health. These animals play critical roles in society, providing income and food, but also clothing, building materials, fertilizer and draught power. However, the presence of endemic and emerging diseases, as well as other factors, negatively impact them, jeopardizing their contributions.

Every year, hundreds of millions of dollars are invested globally on disease mitigation in order to improve livestock health and productivity. Yet, a systematic way to determine the burden of animal disease on the health and wellbeing of people is not available.

It is still unknown how the burden is apportioned between smallholders and the commercial sector, or across regions and gender. Consequently, decision-makers lack the information to accurately assess whether their investments target the animal health issues that have the most significant impact on human wellbeing.

The GBADs program, led by the University of Liverpool, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and a partnership of international institutions, will enable the examination of animal health and the disease burden from a different perspective.

By assessing the global burden in economic terms, the program will help identify the individuals and communities which are the most impacted, demonstrating how animal health is intrinsically linked to agricultural productivity, smallholder household income, the empowerment of women and the equitable provision of a safe, affordable, nutritious diet.

Professor Dame Janet Beer, Vice Chancellor, University of Liverpool, said: ‘The GBADs program is a key part of our commitment to deploying our research capacity towards the welfare of humankind. The GBADs program is crucial in building a world with zero hunger, good health and equality for all, an urgent mission in which we are proud to play our part. We are grateful for the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, who are supporting this work in partnership with the OIE. Together, we will realise a brighter future for animal and human well-being.’

Dr Monique Eloit, OIE Director General, said: ‘It is more evident now for everyone that animal health and public health are interconnected and play an essential role in building a sustainable and healthy planet, especially if we succeed in incorporating the environmental and socioeconomic components.’

The international institutions partnering with the University of Liverpool and OIE in the GBADs program are the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; the University of Guelph; the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington; the International Livestock Research Institute; Murdoch University; Sciensano; Washington State University; the University of Zurich; and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The program has also received funding from the Brooke Foundation and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

The International Livestock Research Institute will play a key role in investigating and applying approaches to improve our understanding of the burden of animal disease in farming systems in Ethiopia. This work will act as a case study, providing insights relevant to other settings and methods that can be used elsewhere. Understanding the scale and nature of how animal disease impacts livelihoods and economies is key, but this information then needs to be used to better advise governments and other investors in livestock and disease control. Therefore, tools and approaches will be developed to ensure that animal health policies are rational and informed by evidence.

The new partnership will support the implementation of the GBADs program. In a world where 1.25 billion people work in agriculture, the program will have a positive impact on the Sustainable Development Goals contributing to Zero Hunger; Good Health and Well-being; Gender Equality; Decent Work and Economic Growth; and Responsible Consumption and Production.

Photo credit: Goats in Mozambique awaiting sale (ILRI/Yvane Marblé)