Academics want to build capacity for One Health strategy

African countries have been urged to adopt the One Health framework, a collaborative public health approach, amid concerns of pandemic outbreaks and for the emerging and re-emerging of highly infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and Ebola that adversely affect human health.

The call was made by a group of academics and public health experts during a discussion on 30 March titled ‘One Health and Public Health in Africa’, which formed part of the public dialogue series. The One Health event was hosted by the Alliance for African Partnership (AAP) and the University of Pretoria (UP), South Africa.

The AAP was co-created by Michigan State University and African thought leaders in 2016. It is a consortium of Michigan State University and 10 leading African universities, including UP, which collaborate to address continental and global challenges.

According to the World Health Organization, One Health is an approach to design and implement programmes, policies, legislation and research whereby multiple sectors in governments and private sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes.

Various professionals with a range of expertise and who are active in different sectors, such as public health, animal health, plant health and the environment, are expected to join forces to support One Health approaches.

Endorsing the One Health public health strategy for Africa, Dr Yewande Alimi, the coordinator of the antimicrobial resistance programme at the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, or Africa CDC, said the continent is a hot spot of various zoonotic infectious diseases because of its forested tropical regions, rapid land-use changes and large wildlife biodiversity.

Zoonotic diseases are caused by bacteria, viruses and other germs that spread between animals and people.

According to Alimi, 60% of existing human infectious diseases are zoonotic but, even much worse, 75% of the emerging infectious diseases that include various variants of severe acute respiratory syndrome, Ebola, HIV, Marburg, monkeypox and Lassa fever have an animal origin. “Three out of five human diseases that appear every year originate from animals,” said Alimi.

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