The new One Health playbook offers governments around the world 18 practical ways to improve livestock production in developing countries that will unlock global health and development benefits.
“Integrated livestock” One Health that focuses on seven major areas in the Global South can help protect the world from epidemics, according to a summary of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).
About three-quarters of infectious diseases emerging in humans have come from wild and domesticated animals, and – before the Covid-19 pandemic – animal-borne diseases mainly affect people in low-income countries. Only 13 of the 200 known zoonotic diseases kill 2.2 million people a year, mostly in developing countries.
Scientists at ILRI have shown how investment in healthy and sustainable livestock production in developing countries can benefit the three interconnected sectors of “One Health”: animals, people and the environment, and reduce the spread of disease.
These recommendations include increasing the availability and adoption of animal vaccinations to reduce the risk of the spread of various diseases, raising public awareness of measures to reduce the spread of diseases, and improving hygiene and food safety in informal markets.
It is impossible to overestimate the demand and the number of livestock in the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Everything from food and nutrition to gender equality, livelihoods and commerce depend on farmed animals. “
Jimmy Smith, director general at ILRI
“Healthy livestock means healthy people and habitats, which not only helps low-income countries grow their economies, but also contributes to global security, reducing the risk of disease spreading around the world.”
The brief, which is forthcoming at the next meeting to discuss the global “epidemic prevention agreement”, also highlights the importance of helping to identify emerging diseases in animals to protect the lives of poor people and to prevent epidemics in humans. One such disease is the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), a virus spread by camels, which is on the rise in countries like Kenya because of their climate resilience.
Scientists at ILRI and their colleagues are beginning to closely monitor MERS in camels to better understand the disease in camels and to guide future outbreaks in humans, which could lead to another pandemic.
“As the World Health Organization moves forward with a new pandemic preparedness agreement, it is imperative that governments take advantage of the use of livestock to improve public health,” said Hung Nguyen-Viet, director of the Animal and Human Health Program at ILRI.
“Treating zoonotic diseases at their source can significantly reduce the number of infections and deaths and save billions of dollars in future outbreak or epidemic control.”
In addition to disease prevention, One Health’s livestock production methods can also contribute to a healthy ecosystem, especially when used in mixed plants and livestock. In such systems, crop residues provide fodder for livestock while animals provide organic fertilizer to keep the soil healthy, and attract and generate revenue that can be returned to crop irrigation.
At the same time, healthy livestock also increases the resilience of communities and economies, making rural communities less vulnerable to hunger, malnutrition and disease. About 70 percent of the world’s 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty depend on livestock for their livelihoods. Improving productivity through smart feeding, farmer training and pasture management can help herders get more from their livestock, leading to higher incomes, healthier diets and better health.
“As we have seen with the Covid-19 pandemic, health risks and threats in one part of the world can spread quickly and affect people around the world,” added Dr Smith.
“The increasing number of livestock in developing countries makes them a unique vehicle that can improve the lives of the most vulnerable people, and thereby, protect global health.”
International Livestock Research Institute