The importance of Animal Health for Global Health Security

Friday the 26th of September, Dr Vallat, Director General of the World Organisation for Animal Health, gave a speech in front of the international decisions makers during the 4th Meeting of the Global Health and Security Agenda (GHSA), organised in Washington DC in presence of the USA president, Barack Obama and representatives of Governments of more than 40 countries. Dr Vallat highlighted in its speech the animal health perspective and its critical interdependence with human health in improving human health worldwide. He recalled the OIE key contribution to accelerate progress against all global disease threats, preventing diseases at their animal source being crucial for protecting human health.

Barack Obama Animal Health

The Global Health Security agenda is an effort between the U.S. government, many other nations, including China and India and international organisations including WHO, OIE and FAO, to accelerate progress toward a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats and to promote global health security as an international security priority. The OIE contributed to this effort since its launch in April 2014 in WHO Headquarters.

“Pathogens of animal origin are an important and growing global threat to human and animal health, food security, food safety, poverty reduction and biodiversity”, stressed the OIE director General.  “The evolution of new and re-emerging pathogens is the consequence of a multitude of factors and, in combination with the potential for deliberate threat, can only be addressed through a multi-faceted and well-coordinated global strategy.  

That is why the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), which is the intergovernmental standard-setting body for animal health and the pre-eminent source of early warning and monitoring of animal diseases, is committed to a robust participation in the GHSA.  

For the past 90 years, we have, through our global network, successfully coordinated the international control of animal diseases. It’s our job, it’s our passion, and it has become an ever-growing shared responsibility as a global Public Good.  

In this respect, the OIE offers five unique platforms that are both essential and available to contribute to a successful GHSA.

  • Firstly, the OIE sets international standards for disease prevention and control methods and the quality of national animal health systems because good governance is the most critical factor to the control of animal diseases including zoonoses.
  • Secondly, the OIE assists its 180 Member Countries to evaluate and improve their compliance with these international standards. The OIE PVS Pathway – for the improvement of Performance of Veterinary Services – offers independent expert assessments to enable countries to identify and address gaps in their veterinary services’ capacity, including veterinary education and public private partnerships, to prevent, detect and respond to animal disease threats.
  • Thirdly, the OIE and the WHO have jointly developed a Guide to assist member countries to improve compliance with both WHO International Health Regulations (IHR) and OIE standards on the quality of veterinary services. Our joint WHO-OIE national workshops facilitate better cooperation and strategic planning between public health and animal health services.
  • Fourthly, the OIE World Animal Health Information System (WAHIS) is the foremost comprehensive source for the early detection, monitoring and transparent reporting of animal diseases including zoonosis. This global real-time link is critical for the expeditious communication of, and rapid response to, disease events.
  • Finally, the OIE global network of 296 Reference Laboratories and Collaborating Centres and more than 1,300 national Focal Points constitute an ongoing and permanent scientific information and global emergency response system”, explained Dr Vallat.

“In summary,” emphasized Dr Vallat, “the OIE is the backbone of global animal disease control. It has established platforms and connected teams in place, ready to support the achievement of the GHSA goals. Ebola, influenza, and West Nile Virus have all emerged first in developing countries which have not had the capacity to implement the OIE standards to detect, prevent and respond to these diseases of animal origin. With appropriate support and commitment, animal disease warning and monitoring systems can be expanded.”

Dr Vallat also stated that the OIE and its networks are prepared to be part of the solution to the short term objective of improved zoonotic disease prevention and control, and to the longer term issues such as vaccine development and other alternatives to antimicrobial use in animals.

Supporting developing countries to comply with intergovernmental Standards on quality and efficiency of public and animal health national systems is a win-win investment for the global community, concluded Dr Vallat.

Because protecting animals means preserving our future.