The United Nations agricultural agency launched the first phase of a new, 15-year global programme ($996.4 million FAO-World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) initiative) to eradicate a highly contagious viral animal disease affecting more than 70 countries in Africa, Middle East and Asia, which account for about 80 per cent of the world’s sheep and goats and where millions of families depend heavily on these animals for nutrition and livelihoods.
Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) – also known as sheep and goat plague – is highly lethal to small ruminants. The annual global damage due to the disease is estimated to be between $1.4 and $2.1 billion.
Wiping out PPR will have a major positive impact on the lives of pastoralist communities in all developing countries and directly support global efforts to end poverty and hunger by 2030.
According to FAO, an estimated 300 million small-scale farming families depend on small ruminants for food and income.
For instance, a recent outbreak in India caused $180 million in losses. Similarly, a series of epidemics in Kenya in 2006-2008 killed 1.2 million small ruminants with losses exceeding $23.5 million and a 2.1 million litre drop in milk production.
The disease is however, easily preventable with inexpensive vaccines that can be administered at low cost and that will protect the animal for its entire life.
The virus also has a relatively short infectious phase and does not survive for long outside a host, making it an ideal candidate for a concerted eradication effort.
The plan also aims to improve national production models and help herders build the strongest, most resilient livelihoods with their animal resources.
The PPR initiative is modelled on the successful effort to eradicate rinderpest, a similar disease that affected cattle, buffalo and wildlife. In 2011, this campaign achieved success and it was the first time an animal disease had been eradicated from the planet.