Epidemiology and control of peste des petits ruminants in East and West Africa

A women pastoralist milks her goat

Woman pastoralist milks her goat (Photo credit: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet)

To launch research activities in support of controlling peste des petits ruminants (PPR) in West Africa, a workshop held last month in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, outlined a roadmap for the implementation of the project at national and regional levels covering the livestock movement corridors between Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal.

There are approximately 160 million head of small ruminants (sheep and goats) in Africa and these are a cornerstone of the livestock sector on this continent. They contribute to food and nutritional security as well as to the livelihoods of vulnerable families, they provide a flexible financial reserve for rural populations and they play an important social and cultural role. Unfortunately, they are threatened by PPR, which is a highly contagious viral disease characterized by high rates of death and sickness, significantly harming the livelihoods of livestock keepers.

With the support of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the European Commission (EC), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), together with partners such as the Agricultural Research for Development (cirad), Institut Sénégalais de Recherche Agricoles (ISRA), Laboratoire Central Vétérinaire (LCV) and Centre International de Recherche-Développement sur l’Elevage en Zone Subhumide (CIRDES)—are conducting a research project on the epidemiology and control of PPR (Eco-PPR) to support ongoing global efforts towards the eradication of this disease. The project focuses on high-risk areas in East and West Africa characterized by high levels of cross-border movements. Some of these areas are difficult to reach during vaccination campaigns and thus can become pockets of remaining infection, jeopardizing control efforts elsewhere. The main goal of this project is to inform and support ongoing national, regional and global efforts for PPR control and eradication by generating the necessary evidence to support policy dialogue.

The project is organized into four components:

  • Epidemiology and socio-economic impact to fill existing knowledge gaps
  • Modelling PPR control to assess the effectiveness of different control scenarios
  • Vaccine delivery and diagnostics to improve access of vaccines to the livestock keepers
  • Capacity development and surveillance to provide an adequate enabling environment for control efforts.

The three-day event included agreeing on the outlines of research activities by the core research team, followed by in-country and cross-country discussions to refine suggested activities and explore options for leveraging from ongoing regional and national projects focused on PPR such as Project Régional d’Appui au Patoralisme du Sahel (PRAPS) and Projet d’Appui and Développement de l’Elevage (PADEL) in Burkina Faso and Mali by stakeholders such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Food and Agriculture Organization  (FAO) of the United Nations, Vétérinaires Sans Frontières Belgium, public veterinary services of the respective countries and private veterinarians. On the last day, the core research teams refined activities based on stakeholder recommendations and prioritized actions.

The stakeholder consultation further strengthened participant understanding of this disease as well as provided practical approaches regarding what can be done, and how and where, in the respective areas.

Barbara Wieland, the team leader for herd health at the ILRI who leads this project, says, ‘This research project works in two major livestock movement corridors in East and West Africa and is very much is in line with the thinking of the PPR Global Eradication Programme, which advocates regional approaches. An important element of this is that the project focuses on areas with high levels of cross-border movement, which are likely high-risk areas for continued PPR virus transmission.’

She added, ‘And another key element is intervention research to develop and test a novel model of vaccine delivery with the aim to increase vaccination coverage, which directly addresses a key challenge for countries.’

To maintain stakeholder engagement throughout this project, regional workshops are being organized on an annual basis to discuss achievements and outputs and to provide further recommendations.

For additional information on this

  • ECO-PPR project
  • Presentation by Adama Diallo, CIRAD, highlighted the importance of understanding livestock trade routes and social networks to inform the change in trends in PPR lineage distribution in West Africa.
  • Presentation by Idriss Alfaroukh, animal health expert of the Regional Sahel Pastoralism Support Project (PRAPS), described the successes and challenges of interventions being carried out in six countries of the Sahel
  • Contact Barbara Wieland