8 min.

Kenya One Health Conference: Challenges and opportunities of implementing One Health


More than 75% of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic in origin and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that zoonoses-diseases transmitted between animals and people are responsible for about 2.5 billion cases of illness and 2.7 million human deaths worldwide yearly.

The threats posed by pathogens jumping from animals to humans as well as the destruction of the environment cannot be effectively addressed by one sector alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of a One Health approach as the solution to reduce the threat of another pandemic posed by zoonoses.

The newly formed operational definition of ‘One Health’ by the One Health High Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP) of the joint tripartite (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) states that One Health is an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals and ecosystems. It recognizes that the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants, and the wider environment (including ecosystems) are closely linked and interdependent.

To share ongoing One Health work in Kenya and build partnerships among stakeholders, the One Health Research Education and Outreach Centre in Africa (OHRECA) and key partners, hosted a free three -day hybrid Kenya One Health Conference that brought together experts across different sectors to contribute to the understanding and management of the shared threats at the human, animal and environment interface.

The conference had four sessions spread over the three days. These included One Health research, gender and One Health and One Health education, and lOne Health policy and implementation. Experts from various sectors including veterinarians, medical practitioners, private sector, government, non-governmental organizations, academics and ecologists spoke at the event.

One Health research session

On the first day on 6 December, the conference explored the One Health research landscape in Kenya and kicked off with a welcome note by Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). He mentioned three key things that are needed for the virtues of One Health to be realized and for One Health to progress. First, the breaking down of institutional insularity and working together in solidarity in the one health space, second, an increase in the amount of funding available to allow the One Health approach to flourish and, third, the adoption of a One Health definition that is manageable and can be easily implemented.

He also called for improved surveillance and a proactive approach to prevention and preparedness, which was echoed by the keynote speaker, George Warimwe, the Royal Society Africa Prize winner, who demonstrated the use of One Health in developing a Rift Valley fever vaccine suitable for human and livestock use.

Thereafter, scientific presentations were made which ranged across a variety of topics from the epidemiology of emerging and endemic zoonoses, antimicrobial resistance to urban health, and understanding forced migration and displaced populations as a driver for disease.

The session closed with a panel discussion with five researchers who included Eleanor Opondo, leader of the evidence for health research group at the Centre for Global Health Research at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Jeanette Dawa, a medical epidemiologist with the Washington State University (WSU), Salome Bukachi, associate professor in the University of Nairobi’s Institute of Anthropology, Gender and African Studies, Jason Sircely, an ecosystem ecologist at ILRI, and Eric Fevre of the University of Liverpool and ILRI joint appointed principal scientist. The session was moderated by Ekta Patel, scientist and communications manager – biosciences, ILRI.

Key messages that came out of the panel discussion was the need for institutions to better collaborate and share their experiences and build upon the vision of One Health, make a clear business case for One Health for donors, and the need to carry out policy-relevant research.

Gender and One Health, and One Health education and capacity strengthening sessions

The second day had two sessions starting with a deep dive on gender and then moving to One Health education and capacity strengthening. The gender and One Health session explored how to mainstream gender in One Health research, policy and practice. Keynote speaker Hellen Amuguni, associate professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, highlighted that gender is a core One Health competency. Regarding integrating gender into One Health, some of the things she identified were increasing gender mainstreaming capacities of One Health practitioners, integrating gender training into other One Health training modules and developing a gender strategy. Others were developing a policy road map and measuring progress, and having data driven evidence for policymakers and communicating gender transformative messages.

The session concluded with a panel discussion that had gender experts Edna Mutua, health systems researcher at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust in Kenya, and Kathleen Colverson, associate research scientist, department of animal sciences, University of Florida, who all agreed that gender roles and relations influence disease exposure, access to health services and decision-making on investments in disease control at the household level. Therefore, gender needs to be integrated into disease prevention and control programs for better outcomes at the human-animal-environment interface.

The second session of the day was the One Health education and capacity strengthening session, which explored how to develop One Health capacity at the local level and integrate the concept at all levels of informal and formal training— from primary to tertiary levels – so that systems thinking, and transdisciplinary collaboration can be used to solve today’s global health challenges.

The keynote speaker, Njenga Munene, vice chancellor of Zetech University, Kenya, highlighted emerging pandemic threats and other global health challenges and how they have led to innovations and technology in One Health education. He mentioned that there is a need to embrace online learning to expand One Health education for people to appreciate the interconnections of animals, the environment and human health.

This session ended with a panel discussion that included Oladele Ogunseitan, presidential chair and professor, population health and disease prevention, University of California; Caroline Kimani, range socio-ecologist; Tequiero Abuom, University of Nairobi; Margaret Karembu, director of The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA); and Mabel Nangami, dean school of public health, Moi University. The consensus of these experts was that to implement One Health, we need to formally incorporate the One Health concept into the curricula of the animal, human and environmental health professions which will, in turn, lead to a cadre of trained professionals who can deploy systems thinking and facilitate transdisciplinary collaboration. Also highlighted was the need for science communication as an enabler of One Health culture and practice.

One Health policy and implementation session

The last day was dedicated to One Health implementation and policy which brought together government officials and policy experts who spoke on how One Health recommendations have been adopted in the animal, human and environment sectors.

The keynote speaker Mark Nanyingi, One Health advisor, FAO, and infectious disease epidemiologist, University of Liverpool; spoke on the roadmap to the institutionalization of One Health policies in Africa. His key message was that for Africa to achieve optimal health outcomes in the management of emerging and re-emerging infectious, zoonotic, vector-borne diseases, food-borne diseases, antimicrobial resistance and other public health threats, there is a need to have a policy framework that recognizes the interconnectedness of the health of people, animals, plants and the environment.

The high-level panel for this session included Harry Oyas, senior deputy director of veterinary services, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives, Kenya - Directorate of Veterinary Services; Philip Ngere, national coordinator, events-based surveillance and manager public health emergency operation centre, Ministry of Health, Kenya; John Mumbo, principal compliance and enforcement officer, National Environment Management Authority Kenya (NEMA); Anthony Odhiambo, country representative, Comitato Collaborazione Medica; and Mark Nanyingi. They highlighted that the implementation of national One Health strategies is being held back by funding deficiencies, lack of coordination between institutions, poor linkages between researchers and policymakers and lack of ownership of the policies.

The conference was closed by Siboniso Moyo, deputy director general, research and development - livestock genetics, feeds and forages, ILRI. She thanked participants and speakers for their contributions and assured participants that ILRI and OHRECA will continue supporting One Health initiatives in the region.

Partners of the Kenya One Health Conference include the Kenya Zoonotic Disease Unit, World Animal Protection (WAP), Washington State University - Paul G, Allen School for Global Health, University of Liverpool, AFROHUN, One Health Regional Network for the horn of Africa, Center for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (CEMA), Vétérinaires Sans Frontières-Germany (VSF-G), Kenya Animal Health Network, University of Nairobi, KEMRI and CDC


Click here to watch day one of the conference

Click here to watch day two of the conference

Click here to watch day three of the conference

Visit the Kenya One Health Conference website here

More information on the One Health Centre in Africa is here.


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