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FAO launches ISAVET training in Kenya

FAO has launched its first In-Service Applied Veterinary Epidemiology Training (ISAVET) training for the first cohort of veterinarians and para-veterinary professionals in Kenya

The programme provides a structured on-the-job training to develop animal health capacity to prevent, detect and respond to potentially zoonotic viral threats at source.

As many as 25 trainees, in collaboration with the director of veterinary services, will be trained for four months, with four weeks of formal training followed by three months of home-based mentored field projects at trainee duty stations. 

"Field veterinarians and veterinary paraprofessionals are an indispensable human resource. They contribute to effective surveillance, field investigation and emergency response. They have strong ties to the local community and are often first responders of an animal disease outbreak," said Carla Mucavi, FAO representative in Kenya.

Enhancing capacity of frontline animal-health workers

In 2017, the Surveillance Evaluation and Joint External Evaluation (JEE) exercises conducted in Kenya identified a significant gap in a structured and routine on-job training for animal health workers, more so among the frontline animal health workers.

To carry out early detection and response to potentially zoonotic viral threats at their source, veterinary field officers from the county, sub county and regional veterinary investigation laboratories (RVILS) require skills to conduct effective surveillance and outbreak response under a 'One Health' approach.

The ISAVET programme provides a structured on-the-job training to develop animal health capacity to prevent, detect and respond to potentially zoonotic viral threats at source, through an “In-service” training targeting field veterinarians and veterinary paraprofessionals in the agriculture sector.

"The Kenyan Government has committed itself to developing an efficient and effective veterinary service that will deliver animal health services to protect our animals. Kenya’s veterinary services is anchored upon a strong surveillance system which aims at detecting endemic, emerging and re-emerging diseases, thereby providing support to evidence based disease outbreak response,” said Harry Kimtai, CBS, principal secretary, State Department for Livestock.

Surveillance, prevention and control of animal diseases

Transboundary animal diseases (TADs) such as African Swine Fever (ASF), Peste des Petits Ruminantis (PPR) and Priority Zoonotic Diseases such as Rabies, Anthrax and Brucellosis have long-ranging health, socio-economic consequences.

In Kenya, most of the populations affected by disease outbreaks live in the rural areas where livestock plays a significant role in provision of food, as well as contributes to household income. 

Epidemiological surveillance, field investigation and response, communication and disease prevention and control are some of the core competencies that are required in building the country’s capacity for the management of Priority zoonotic diseases at the Human-Livestock Interphase and Transboundary Animal Diseases at source.

In 2018, FAO, the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD) of Texas A&M University and collaborators launched the Frontline In-Service Applied Veterinary Epidemiology Training (ISAVET) programme to address endemic, emerging infectious and transboundary animal diseases (EIDs and TADs) in 14 countries of West, Central and East Africa.

The programme was funded through the Workforce Development Action Package of the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) initiative with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

"As we have seen already, COVID-19 has emphasised the need for the One Health approach. ISAVET builds on the foundation set by Field Epidemiology Laboratory Training programme (FELTP) to address transboundary animal diseases, emerging infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance. I congratulate the first cohort of trainees and urge them to provide the leadership required in enhancing animal health surveillance in Kenya," said the regional advisor of the USAID in East and Central Africa, Ricardo Echalar.