GF-TADs: Marking two decades of multilateral efforts in transboundary animal disease control 

transboundary animal disease control_shepherd moving his sheep in a fog

Transboundary animal diseases, with their ability to spread rapidly across borders and escalate into epidemics, pose serious threats to global economic stability, trade, livelihoods, global  health and food security.  

The Global Framework for the Progressive Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases (GF-TADs), a joint initiative led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), has dedicated its efforts since 2004 to address major global and regional animal diseases and zoonoses. 

On 24 May, we commemorate the 20th anniversary of GF-TADs and the significant milestones achieved in enhancing animal diseases surveillance and reporting mechanisms, developing early warning systems, and strengthening capacity-building efforts within animal health services. By fostering collaboration among regional and subregional organizations as well as national veterinary authorities,
GF-TADs has facilitated the coordination of efforts to tackle challenges in disease prevention, detection, and control. 

One of the notable successes of GF-TADs is its contribution to the eradication of rinderpest and reduction of the risk of  re-emergence.  In line with the Global Rinderpest Action Plan, GF-TADS has supported and coordinated efforts to raise awareness on vaccine availability, capacity building for rapid response to a re-emergence, as well as sequestering and destroying infectious material. Rinderpest is a highly contagious viral disease that plagued livestock populations for centuries. Through concerted efforts in the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme led by FAO, WOAH and partners, including the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), rinderpest was officially declared eradicated in 2011, marking a significant achievement in the history of veterinary medicine and animal health. 

In addition to rinderpest, GF-TADs, through international cooperation, dialogue, and stepwise approaches to improvement has also prioritized the control and eradication of other transboundary animal diseases such as African swine fever (ASF), Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD), Peste des petits ruminants (PPR), and recently, the widely devastating highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).  

As a key component of FAO’s sustainable livestock transformation initiative, GF-TADs has helped countries make progress in reducing the prevalence and impact of these diseases by developing and implementing global and regional strategies tailored to specific disease threats. In particular, successful vaccination campaigns have been coordinated against Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) in Southeast Europe, with swift support and capacity-building activities initiated for ASF in MesoAmerica following detection of ASF in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Similarly, coordination efforts have worked to address the emergence of viruses like LSD, PPR and ASF in Asia, along with FMD serotype O in the Middle East and Caucasus region, and to create momentum around the control of regional priority transboundary animal diseases (TADs) in Africa.  

In addition to the previous success stories, the successful launch of the new global strategy on HPAI, marks a fruitful collaboration between FAO and WOAH under GF-TADS. This strategy reflects the requests and recommendations made by the Member Countries and other stakeholders during the FAO and WOAH global meetings in 2023, as well as global and regional consultations. The strategy prioritizes prevention of impacts through early detection and control and reducing the risk of HPAI through poultry value chain transformation and biosecurity enhancements. By emphasizing a systems approach, the strategy aims to ensure that local challenges and realities are addressed to increase resilience in the poultry sector and protect the health of humans, ecosystems, and animals. 

Despite these achievements, GF-TADs partners continue to face challenges. These include the emergence and spread of TADs, lack of capacity in the animal health workforce, reduced  access to quality vaccines, difficulties in resource mobilization, competing priorities, and a lack of political will to invest in TADs prevention and control. Additionally, long-range movements and marketing of animals and animal products, increased opportunities for livestock-wildlife interactions, and challenges in timely identification and traceability of infected animals can increase the risk for larger and more severe outbreaks. However, GF-TADs remains committed to its mission of enhancing global cooperation and coordination, including increased financial support, to tackle these risk factors at their source and reduce the impacts of transboundary animal diseases.

As GF-TADs celebrates its accomplishments over the years, it underscores the importance of international collaboration and partnership among all the stakeholders involved in addressing complex challenges in animal health. Through multidisciplinary and One Health approaches, public-private partnerships, and working together, countries can build more resilient veterinary systems, stop the losses caused by TADS, safeguard food security, and protect livelihoods for future generations.