Zimbabwe stands to benefit from a recently launched US $ 6.9 million project to combat animal trypanosomiasis, a parasitic disease transmitted by biting flies, including tsetse flies, which continue to cause severe losses to small African farmers.
CIRAD, a French agricultural research and cooperation organization, has announced that it will coordinate a four-year COMBAT project funded to the tune of 5.9 million euros ($ 6.9 million) from the H2020 program of the European Union to contain parasitic diseases that are now at risk of being introduced into Europe due to globalization and environmental changes. The project will aim to improve the knowledge base on animal parasitic diseases, develop innovative control tools, strengthen surveillance, diagnostic and control networks by setting up harmonized epidemiological information systems and national control strategies. and regional.
CIRAD has indicated that it will also strengthen the capacities of African breeders and veterinary services to fight the disease, while raising awareness among political decision-makers concerned with food security and poverty reduction.
“The strength of this project lies in the fact that it brings together, within the consortium, European and African research institutions, as well as the veterinary authorities of the target countries.
“The project also benefits from the support of international organizations, primarily the FAO, but also the African Union, OIE, WHO and IAEA, which means that it has a major impact on all stakeholders, ”said Alain Boulangé, the project coordinator for CIRAD.
The project will be implemented in 13 endemic African countries with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The 13 endemic countries include Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa, Ethiopia, Uganda, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Cameroon.
Experts say African animal trypanosomiasis is a parasitic disease that causes severe economic losses in livestock due to anemia, loss of condition and reproductive effects.
Losses in cattle are quite significant and apart from animals other than cattle dogs can also be affected. The disease does not have a vaccine and existing drugs lose their effectiveness due to the development of resistance in the parasites. Experts say existing diagnostic methods are difficult to use in the field, while vector control tools, often unfriendly to the environment, need to be improved.
“The direct and indirect impacts of tsetse and trypanosomiasis are estimated at an annual loss of 4.5 billion dollars in Africa. Losses occur through impacts on livestock productivity, migration and human settlements, livestock management, agricultural production, land use, ecosystem structure and function, and the human well-being.
“It is clear that the three sectors affected by tsetse and trypanosomiasis are human health, livestock health and rural development, thus placing the challenge at the heart of African rural development,” said Union’s Gift Wanda. African-Pan-African Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Campaign.
Each year in Africa, the blood-sucking tsetse fly causes more than $ 4.5 billion in lost farm income, kills three million head of cattle and infects up to 75,000 people with trypanosomiasis, according to the UN. Advances in the control of animal trypanosomiasis have been limited over the past 20 years compared to the great advances made in the control of sleeping sickness. Sleeping sickness caused devastating epidemics in the 20th century, but the World Health Organization is now aiming for its elimination. Weining Zhao, senior FAO animal health official, expressed his “deep gratitude for the launch of this new project to tackle this critically important health problem, which affects the lives, livestock and the environment of millions. of vulnerable pastoralists in Africa ”.
“We are convinced that the strong commitment of African, European and international institutions will guarantee the full achievement of the objectives of the project,” he said.
Tsetse flies carry trypanosomiasis, a parasite that causes a disease called nagana in cattle and sleeping sickness in humans.
The disease, which affects the nervous system, has been a long-standing plague in Africa, causing fever, loss of appetite and in some cases death if left untreated.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Zimbabwe made great strides in eliminating tsetse and African animal trypanosomiasis (AAT) which affects parts of the country to the north, northwest, northeast and south. .
However, veterinary experts say progress in recent years has been limited in the country, opening previously liberated areas to the risk of reinvasion. After foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and tick-borne diseases (TBD), African animal trypanosomiasis (AAT) or Nangana is the most economically important livestock disease in Zimbabwe, according to veterinary experts. Experts say Zimbabwe and other endemic countries in Africa need to continuously monitor the distribution and prevalence of these diseases to guide control programs.