WHO, FAO move to eliminate human deaths from dog rabies by 2030

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By: Bamidele Fashube

The World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) have jointly launched a new United Against Rabies Forum aimed at accelerating progress towards the elimination of human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030.

The global agencies say the disease continues to kill one person every nine minutes -almost half of them children.

According to a statement issued by the FAO, the forum will bring together partners across government institutions, human and animal and environmental health sectors, the private sector, civil society as well as research and academia.

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WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said:”We can only eliminate rabies in people if we do a better job of controlling it in dogs, and if we radically improve access to treatment and care – especially among the poor and marginalized groups who suffer the most from this horrible disease.”

On his part,FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu said:”While the coronavirus pandemic poses unprecedented challenges to us all, we can and must turn disadvantage to advantage. We have an opportunity now to strengthen One Health collaboration and regional cooperation, particularly to improve animal health systems and surveillance. Collaborating on rabies is an excellent way to put those ideas into practice.”

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Also, the OIE Director-General, Monique Eloit stressed the need for collaborative efforts against rabies saying:”This is a disease we know how to beat, but there is no single solution. We have to work together, across human and animal health sectors and with affected communities. If we do, elimination is possible, and in the process, we will also be building stronger systems for the detection and control of other diseases.”

The global agencies expressed commitment
to operationalization of ‘One Health’, which promotes a policy approach that connects human, animal and environmental health interventions.

They further stressed the need for coordinated investment in mass dog vaccination as a public health initiative alongside, improved surveillance and data collection as well as community awareness raising and ensuring access to affordable rabies treatment for humans (post exposure prophylaxis or PEP).

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According to the statement, scientific research and field evidence show that mass dog vaccination campaigns that cover 70 per cent of the at-risk dog population can confer herd immunity against rabies and are the only real way to interrupt the disease’s infectious cycle between animals and humans.

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