Global health risks and tomorrow’s challenges
The COVID-19 pandemic, a human public health crisis resulting from a virus of potential animal origin, underlined the validity of the One Health concept in understanding and confronting global health risks. Often used to coordinate multi-sectoral prevention and response efforts of zoonotic diseases (those that may transmit from animals to humans, or humans to animals), it is critical for the control of diseases such as rabies, avian flu and tuberculosis.
Health risks are increasing with trade globalisation, global warming and changes in human behaviour, all of which provide multiple opportunities for pathogens to colonise new territories and evolve into new forms. And the risk is not only for humans. While most risk assessments focus on the transmission of pathogens from animals to humans, animal health is also greatly impacted by diseases passed from humans. SARS-CoV-2, tuberculosis, various influenza viruses, among others, can harm or be fatal to different species of animals. Gorillas and chimpanzees, with their close genetic makeup to humans, are particularly susceptible to human diseases, and they, as well as other endangered species should be handled with care by Veterinary Services, wildlife authorities and researchers.
Managing these major global health risks, from disease control to global warming, is not possible alone and needs the full cooperation of the animal, human, and environmental health sectors. WOAH brings its expertise in animal health and welfare to multisectoral partnerships which develop global strategies to tackle major diseases or broader health threats, such as antimicrobial resistance.
Throughout the Organisation’s work, we promote the One Health approach, recognising the interdependence of animal, human and environmental health. Because the health of animals and of the environment strongly depend on human activities. Because the health of animals and the environment also determine human health.
It’s everyone’s health.
Together, we can find concrete solutions for a healthier, and more sustainable world.
One Health facts
60% of pathogens that cause human diseases originate from domestic animals or wildlife.
75% of emerging human pathogens are of animal origin.
80% of pathogens that are of bioterrorism concern originate in animals.
Each night, some 811 million people go to bed hungry
More than 70% additional animal protein will be needed to feed the world by 2050
Meanwhile, more than 20% of global animal production losses are linked to animal diseases.
Humans and their livestock are more likely to encounter wildlife when more than 25% of an original forest cover is lost. Some of these contacts may increase the likelihood of disease transmission.
Human actions have severely altered 75% of terrestrial environments and 66% of marine environments.
Animal diseases pose a direct threat to the incomes of rural communities that depend on livestock production.
More than 75%  of the billion people who live on less than $2 per day depend on subsistence farming and raising livestock to survive.
 FAO, 2011. World Livestock 2011 – Livestock in the food security.
 FAO \& OIE, 2015. Global control and eradication of peste des petits ruminants Investing in veterinary systems, food security and poverty alleviation
International FAO-WOAH-WHO collaboration
Coordinating the many players involved in human, animal and environmental health is vital to meet the health challenges of tomorrow. In this context, three major international organisations, WHO, WOAH (founded as OIE) and FAO, are working together to prevent and control health risks at the human–animal–ecosystems interface. They are developing global strategies and tools to ensure a consistent, harmonised approach throughout the world, and to better coordinate human, veterinary and environmental health policies at the national and international levels.
FAO-WOAH-WHO: a worldwide cross-sectoral strategy for “One Health”
These three organisations have worked together for many years to prevent, detect, control and eliminate health threats to humans, originating – directly or indirectly – from animals.
Putting the “One Health”» vision into practice has been facilitated by a formal alliance between the three organisations. In this context, the FAO, WOAH and WHO acknowledge their respective responsibilities in combating diseases which have a severe impact on health and the economy, particularly zoonoses.
The basis of the FAO-WOAH-WHO Tripartite Alliance
In 2010, the three Organisations published a Tripartite Concept Note, describing their collaboration and objectives in the prevention and control of health risks at the human–animal–ecosystems interface.
By working together in this way, they can create synergy in their expertise and communications activities on issues of common interest, in order to mobilise their public and private partners, Member Country governments and public opinion.
They meet regularly and their principal activities are aimed at early detection of the emergence of animal and human diseases, so that these can be met with a swift and targeted response to control disease outbreaks and prevent their spread worldwide
Such actions include, for example:
Developing their capacities
for surveillance and rapid response, through the epidemiological data gathered by their respective health surveillance and early warning systems
across the standard-setting activities of the three organisations (the intergovernmental standards of the WOAH, the International Health Regulations [IHR] of the WHO and the international food standards of the Codex Alimentarius);
Evaluation of and taking measures to manage disease risks
for the health authorities of their Member Countries.
The 3 priorities of the Tripartite Alliance
Within the framework of their close collaboration and the development of joint strategies to prevent health risks at the human–animal–ecosystems interface, the FAO, WOAH and WHO set three priority areas in 2011.
The worldwide spread of the avian influenza H5N1 epidemic at the beginning of the 2000s, with its host of economic and health consequences, intensified the joint work of the FAO, WOAH and WHO. Since then, the three organisations regularly exchange follow-up information on the global animal influenza situation
WOAH/FAO global network of expertise on animal influenza
Established in 2005, this network of international experts is intended to monitor influenza in humans more effectively, in issues related to the animal–human interface. Since 2009 it has extended its field of action to all animal influenzas and continues to increase its activities.
In particular, OFFLU collaborates with WHO to contribute to the early preparation of human vaccines.
Antibiotics are essential for human health, and animal health and welfare. Over-use and abuse can cause the emergence of bacteria that do not respond to antibiotics, i.e. antibiotic resistance.
This phenomenon limits the effectiveness and availability of antimicrobials and seriously jeopardises effective control of infectious diseases throughout the world.
At the same time, globalisation aids the spread of pathogens, including resistant bacteria, across the planet.
The joint actions of the FAO–WOAH–WHO are aimed at:
Ensuring that antimicrobials maintain their effectiveness promoting their responsible and prudent use ensuring that everyone has access to high-quality medicines
Rabies still kills tens of thousands of people every year. However, we have all the methods needed to prevent and eliminate this disease.
Since 2011, the Tripartite Alliance has developed a joint global strategy to control this disease.
Its first priority is good governance of the distribution of resources, both public and private, local, national and international, to carry out preventative actions in animals, particularly vaccination of dogs.
Enlarging the Tripartite commitment to face health challenges of the future
In October 2017, the WOAH, the FAO and the WHO released their second Tripartite strategic document reaffirming their commitment to provide multi-sectoral, collaborative leadership in addressing health challenges. The scope of their collaboration will be enlarged to more broadly embrace the “One Health” approach recognising that human health, animal health and the environment are interconnected.
The document presents the way forward that the three organisations will follow. While maintaining the momentum achieved for antimicrobial resistance, rabies and zoonotic influenza, the partners decided to enlarge their collaboration with a particular focus on:
- the reinforcement of national services in human health, animal health and food safety;
- the strengthening and modernization of early warning and surveillance/monitoring systems;
- the foresight, preparedness and response to emerging, re-emerging and neglected infectious diseases;
- the encouragement and the promotion of coordinated research and development to achieve a common understanding of the highest priority zoonotic diseases;
- the challenge that represents food safety requiring a multi-sector approach in the context of reinforcing food security.
Memorandum of Understanding signed by FAO, WOAH and WHO to strengthen their long-standing partnership
On 31 May 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), agreeing to step up joint action to combat health threats associated with interactions between humans, animals and the environment.
This MOU supports the 2010 Tripartite Concept Note describing the collaborative strategy amongst the three organisations as well as the strategic document published in 2017.
Bringing together knowledge, insights and technical capacities in human and animal health and food and agriculture can generate strong synergies, for more robust, effective and cost-efficient solutions to the complex health problems facing the world today.
Joint activities under the MOU will include:
- Supporting the Interagency Coordination Group on AMR established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2016, as well as the continuing implementation of the Global Action Plan on AMR
Engaging with countries to reinforce national and regional human health, animal health and food safety services Improving inter-agency collaboration in foresight analysis, risk assessment, preparedness building and joint responses to emerging, remerging and neglected infectious diseases at the animal-human-ecosystems interface Addressing food safety challenges requiring a multi-sector approach in the context of reinforcing food security. Promoting coordinated research and development to achieve a common understanding of the highest priority zoonotic diseases and the research and development needed to prevent, detect, and control them Developing a Voluntary Code of Conduct to reinforce implementation of international standards on responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials
Memorandum of Understanding between FAO, WOAH, WHO, and UNEP
The four international agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO), have signed a groundbreaking agreement to strengthen cooperation to sustainably balance and optimize the health of humans, animals, plants and the environment.
On 17 March 2022, the heads of the four organizations – QU Dongyu, the Director-General of FAO, Monique Eloit, the Director-General of WOAH, Inger Anderson, the Executive Director of UNEP, and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO -signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for joint One Health works, by which UNEP joined the former Tripartite (FAO, WOAH and WHO) as an equal partner to form a new Quadripartite Collaboration for One Health.
The new Quadripartite MoU provides a legal and formal framework for the four organizations to tackle the challenges at the human, animal, plant and ecosystem interface using a more integrated and coordinated approach. This framework will also contribute to reinforce national and regional health systems and services.
Cooperation agreements.pdf – 6 MB See the document
The One Health Joint Plan of Action 2022-2026
Strengthening multi-sectoral collaboration at the national level
The WOAH (founded as OIE) envisages and implements the “One Health” concept as a worldwide collaborative approach to understand risks to human, animal and environmental health as a whole.
However a collaboration of this nature cannot be limited to an international plan. It must also be based on harmonised and coordinated systems of health governance which are adapted to the regional and national level.
Taking a Multisectoral, One Health Approach: A Tripartite Guide to Addressing Zoonotic Diseases in Countries
Every day we hear about health challenges at the human-animal-environment interface. Zoonotic diseases such as avian influenza, rabies, Ebola, and Rift Valley fever continue to have major impacts on health, livelihoods, and economies. These health threats cannot be effectively addressed by one sector alone. Multidisciplinary and multisectoral collaboration is needed to tackle them and to reduce their impacts.
As a way to support countries in taking a One Health approach to address zoonotic diseases, the guide: “Taking a Multisectoral, One Health Approach: A Tripartite Guide to Addressing Zoonotic Diseases in Countries” has been jointly developed by the Tripartite organizations (FAO, WOAH, and WHO). This Guide, referred to as the Tripartite Zoonotic Guide (TZG) is flexible enough to be used for other health threats at the human-animal-environment interface; for example, food safety and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
The TZG provides principles, best practices and options to assist countries in achieving sustainable and functional collaboration at the human-animal-environment interface. Examples and lessons learned from countries experiences are also included.
By using the TZG and its associated operational tools (which are currently being developed), countries can build or strengthen their national capacities in:
Options for monitoring and evaluating the impact of these activities are included allowing countries to make improvements in their zoonotic disease frameworks, strategies and policies. Moreover, taking the One Health approach presented in the TZG helps countries to make the best use of limited resources and reduces indirect societal losses, such as impacts on livelihoods of small producers, poor nutrition, and restriction of trade and tourism.
By working together and collaboratively, our global health systems are improved in a sustainable way ensuring an efficient prevention of the global health risks.
Building capacities: Operational Tools of the Tripartite Zoonoses Guide
Joint Risk Assessment
The Joint Risk Assessment Operational Tool (JRA OT) provides guidance on how to set up a joint, cross-sectoral risk assessment process at the national level. While it describes step-by-step how to conduct each component of the process, it also provides model documents and templates to support its implementation by staff from national ministries responsible for management of zoonotic diseases. Thanks to the recommendations on risk monitoring, management and communication resulting from a joint risk assessment, decision-makers can implement science-based measures and align communication messages between sectors.
Navigating the Tripartite Zoonoses Guide (TZG): A Training for Advocates and Implementers
A self-paced training has been developed by the Tripartite organisations (WOAH, FAO and WHO) to introduce participants to the TZG while providing practical guidance for strengthening a One Health approach to zoonotic diseases. By completing the three modules in this training, participants will:
- Understand the purpose of the TZG
- Recognize the tools that can be used to understand national context and priorities for One Health
- Explore the technical capacities addressed in the TZG
- Learn from country experiences about the implementation of key principles of the TZG
- Identify operational tools available to support the use of the TZG at national level
Reinforcing national animal health systems
The promotion of the “One Health” concept at the national level is aimed at establishing stronger political support over time to ensure the coordinated prevention of diseases that have a major impact on public health at the human-animal-ecosystems interface.
In fact it is essential to provide human and animal health systems which are well organised and resilient.
In this context, WOAH is committed to supporting the constant improvement of the performance of national Veterinary Services (the PVS Pathway), in particular through good governance, and encourages them to cooperate with other public health stakeholders, since it sees all actions in this field as a global public good.
In addition WOAH offers all its Member Countries an independent evaluation of the level of compliance of its Veterinary Services comply with WOAH’s quality standards. It also provides specific tools to calculate the investments required and to carry out the legislative and technical reforms needed for compliance. The PVS Pathway for the sustainable improvement of Veterinary Services has already benefited more than 140 Member Countries.
For these actions to be effective on a larger scale, the cooperation of all countries is required, since globalisation and its effects mean that health threats cannot be confined to one country’s borders.
However, some countries still lack consultation and cooperation between their public health and animal health sectors. This is why new initiatives, presented below, have been developed to assist countries to set up effective national health systems for both human health and animal health; systems that are well organised and operate according to the principles of good governance, enabling the monitoring of animal health and public health alike.
Stronger cooperation between national human health authorities and animal health authorities
WHO and WOAH have developed tools to assist their Member Countries to implement their respective standards and help them to identify tailored and coordinated strategies to deal with national health risks at the human–animal interface, by:
- evaluating the capacity of the animal health and human health sectors
- identifying gaps in the implementation of health standards
Based on the experience acquired from two national pilot workshops, held in Azerbaijan and Thailand, a joint WHO–WOAH Guide for national public health and animal health authorities (represented by Veterinary Services) has been produced. It sets out methods for strengthening good governance of health systems throughout the world.
WOAH–WHO operational framework for good governance at the human–animal interface: connecting the tools of WHO and WOAH to evaluate national capacities
The Guide gives a detailed picture of all the tools available under the WHO Framework for Monitoring International Health Regulations (IHR) and the PVS Pathway, and their use to create pathways and meet the objectives of the “One Health” approach.
All these synergies between animal health and human health specialists, applied at the local, national and worldwide level, will undoubtedly contribute to the simultaneous and continuing improvement of global public health.
National IHR/PVS Workshops
International Health Regulations (IHR) and PVS Pathway Evaluation of Performance of Veterinary Services
Since the publication of the Operational Framework described above, WOAH and WHO continue to develop a multi-sectoral approach and now organise national IHR/PVS seminars in those Member Countries that want to strengthen collaboration between their human and animal health sectors, to manage priority health threats in the most effective way possible.
These seminars will provide participants from national authorities with countless opportunities to: consult on the results of IHR and PVS evaluations of countries’ capacities and identify ways to make use of these conclusions; improve dialogue, coordination and collaboration between the human and animal health sectors to:
identify areas for joint strategic action, enabling a synergistic approach to disease prevention, detection and control;facilitate identification of possible tools, by gathering together all the different kinds of technical expertise, data, best practice and resources; improve understanding of the respective roles and mandates of stakeholders in different sectors. develop tools to enable mechanisms for multi-sectoral coordination and cooperation to be more easily funded and incorporated into institutions and aligned with national priorities and strategies, with the aid of information shared by international organisations.
Protecting animals, preserving our future
Since WOAH believes that controlling all animal pathogens at their animal source is the most effective and economic way of protecting people, it works every day to promote a collaborative and multi-sectoral approach, centred on the concept of “One Health”.
Being aware of health risks at the human–animal–ecosystems interface is the cornerstone of their prevention and control. The communication tools developed by WOAH are freely accessible and available to everyone for downloading and distribution.
Bipartite and Tripartite FAO–WOAH–WHO documents
.pdf – 179 KB See the document
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- 12/05/15 The OIE welcomes the publication of WHO Best Practices for the naming of new infectious diseases
- 03/04/15 The OIE joins in the celebration of World Health Day 2015
- 03/10/14 Bridging WHO and OIE tools to better control global health risks at the human–animal interface
- 29/09/14 The importance of animal health for Global Health Security
- 24/05/14 The Directors General of FAO, OIE and WHO united to tackle new challenges
- 06/11/13 WSAVA and OIE call on political leaders for action on rabies
- 21/10/13 OFFLU and WHO extend their collaboration for pandemic preparedness
- 09/12/11 Summary details the outcomes of international high-level talks on health risks at the human–animal–ecosystems interface
- 21/04/10 FAO-OIE-WHO Collaboration Concept Note on health risks at the human-animal interface is available online
26 International Experts to kickstart the joint FAO/WOAH/UNEP/WHO One Health High Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP)
Recognizing the complex and multidisciplinary issues raised by the interface of human, animal and ecosystem health (“One Health”) that require enhanced coordination and collaboration among sectors and agencies, nationally and internationally, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) (the “Partners”) launched on 29 March 2021 a joint call for expression of interest to constitute a One Health High Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP).
From over 700 applications received, 26 international experts were appointed in May 2021 to serve as members on the One Health High Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP). The Panel is multidisciplinary, with experts who have a range of technical knowledge, skills and experience relevant to One Health.
The OHHLEP will provide guidance on One Health-related matters that support improved cooperation among governments. It has an advisory role to the Partners and is expected to support their provision of evidence-based scientific and policy advice to address the challenges raised by One Health.
The areas of focus of the OHHLEP will be subject to regular review by the Partners. Initially, the OHHLEP will focus on:
- providing policy relevant scientific assessment on the emergence of health crises arising from the human-animal-ecosystem interface, as well as research gaps; and
- guidance on development of a long-term strategic approach to reducing the risk of zoonotic pandemics, with an associated monitoring and early warning framework, and the synergies needed to institutionalise and implement the One Health approach, including in areas that drive pandemic risk.
The OHHLEP’s advice will contribute to enhancing strategic orientations and coordination, and to providing high political visibility on the subject of One Health.
For further information regarding members of OHHLEP, please visit the WHO website.
Joint Press ReleasePublished on 20/05/2021
Joint StatementPublished on 01/12/2021