Dr Unesu Ushewokunze-Obatolu
THE last Saturday of each April is observed around the world in acknowledgement of the important role veterinarians play in our lives.
Primarily, veterinarians serve to protect the health and welfare of animals. The basis for promoting animal health and welfare is to ensure that man’s association with animals is mutually beneficial. This is from the point of view that man needs animals as companions, providers of food, transport, work including transport and tillage. Animals are also important in providing fibre and recreation. Their by-products are important in industry and animal health is also important in supporting biodiversity, nutrient recycling and the lucrative eco-tourism industry. Being multi-purpose and multi-functional, animals especially those reared as livestock are important in supporting lives as well as growing household and national wealth. These purposes are best served when the health and welfare of animals are assured.
Quite a number of infectious diseases (over 60 percent) of animals are shared with animals. Over three quarters of new diseases which have been emerging in animals are zoonotic.
Healthy animals under conditions of good animal welfare are likely to produce more and are less likely to be a factor of human health problems. Products from healthy animals are more likely than not to be of good quality and lead to the production of high quality products with an appeal for markets. Within agriculture, the value of animal-derived commodities can at their best exceed 40 percent. Sound animal management and production systems do not therefore only need to employ good husbandry practices, but must also employ good animal health and hygiene as well as welfare practices. It is therefore good practice to ensure that animals whether domesticated, semi-domesticated, in the wild or in captivity, are managed for the preservation of their health. Good animal health is also an important input to animal welfare promotion, a pre-requisite of growing importance for traded products.
World Veterinary Day is in specific recognition of the role veterinarians play in both the private and public spheres in protecting the health and welfare of animals and in the process, promoting the health and well-being of the human population. Veterinary services involves a number of disciplines and tools based on applied science used to investigate, explain, intervene, correct or prevent a variety of negative health and welfare situations as well as certify animal product safety for use, consumption and trade.
Among the tools used in intervening in animal health problems is the use of veterinary remedies and drugs especially in the treatment or control of infestations and infections caused by microbiological organisms.
World Veterinary Day (WVD) this year took place globally on 29 April 2017. While highlighting and promoting the different facets of the work performed by veterinarians all over the world, the WVD draws attention and raise awareness on the growing importance of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). This year, determination of focus by the World Veterinary Association (WVA) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) settled on the theme: “Antimicrobial Resistance- from awareness to action”
Use of antimicrobial drugs has transformed the practice of human and animal medicine, since the early part of the last century. Infections that were once lethal became treatable, and the use of antimicrobial agents advanced global human and animal health tremendously.These advances enabled the realisation of goals in food and nutritional security, public health safety, life expectancy as well as the general wellbeing of people and animal welfare.
Safeguarding the efficacy of these life-saving medications, as well as their availability and effectiveness for both human and veterinary use, are essential in preserving the future of humanity. However, overuse and misuse of these drugs in the human, animal and crop sectors has dramatically accelerated the emergence of resistance to antimicrobials. This may be a result of poor patient or user compliance with rules of use, poor supervision and regulatory oversight, or use of counterfeit drugs.
Thousands of known antimicrobial agents no longer work. No new antimicrobial medicines have been developed for at least 20 years now. It is now feared that by 2050, 10 million human lives worldwide could be lost each year from previously treatable ailments.
Veterinary Services, encompassing services by veterinarians and veterinary paraprofessionals in both the private and public sectors, have a key part to play in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. This is through their role in regulating and supervising the use of antimicrobials, offering professional advice to farmers and animal owners and collaborating with the human health sector. The animal and human health sectors are collaborating on this issue to design a joint action plan towards mitigating the development of antimicrobial resistance. This work represents a number of other common areas of interest addressed under “one health”, a discipline which acknowledges the interdependence of human and animal health and their relationships to the ecosystems in which they co-exist. Some of the relevant activities include joint surveillance and monitoring for AMR and antimicrobial usage; analysis of risks, research into new antimicrobials or effective alternatives in the fight against infectious diseases such as vaccine develoment and development or adaptation of rapid tests for the detection of antimicrobial resistance as well as public education and awareness.
To continue to make progress in disease control management and in improving animal welfare, veterinarians encourage a sustainable change in behaviour towards the responsible and prudent antimicrobial use in animal health protection. This is with an aim to slow down the development of AMR, while safeguarding those antimicrobial molecules which need to be preserved for critical human use.
Through this year’s World Veterinary Day theme, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Veterinary Association seek to encourage all the initiatives and events led by veterinarians, in collaboration with other sectors, to fight antimicrobial resistance especially by raising awareness on this essential issue.
n Dr Ushewokunze-Obatulu is Principal Director, Livestock & Veterinary Services in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Developmenet and Delegate of Zimbabwe to the OIE.