By Aziza Atieno and Sharon Atieno

With Kenya bearing a tremendous burden of zoonotic diseases- transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa- with multiple outbreaks of different diseases yearly, the country has launched a five-year plan to tackle these diseases.

Globally, zoonotic diseases account for over 60% of all human infections and over 75% of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.

Developed jointly by the Government of Kenya, Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations(FAO) and funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the goal of the One Health Strategic plan (2021-2025) is to reduce the burden of zoonotic diseases in Kenya through three strategic objectives.

These include strengthening implementation of the one health approach at the national and county levels, strengthening prevention, surveillance, response and control of priority zoonotic diseases in both humans and animals and promoting applied research using one health approach.

The inaugural and previous One health strategic plan (2012-2017) focused on establishing active collaboration at the animal-human-ecosystem interface for better prevention and control of zoonotic, emerging and re-emerging diseases.

Dr. Simon Kibias

Speaking during the launch, Dr. Simon Kibias, Acting Head Directorate of health standards quality assurance and regulation at Ministry of Health, representing the Cabinet Secretary said that a clear roadmap is crucial to help the government eliminate zoonotic diseases as they pose a great threat to humanity.

He noted that the goal of the strategic plan is to systematically reduce the burden of zoonotic diseases through sustained livestock vaccinations, enhanced surveillance, research, and public education.

Dr. Kibias added that the effective implementation of the strategy will contribute towards Universal Health Coverage(UHC) through improved healthcare services, often to underserved populations.

Dr. Joshua Chepchieng on behalf of the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperative, said that the benefits accrued from the previous strategy will be strengthened and expanded within the current planning period to better integrate the wildlife and environment sectors in preventing and controlling zoonotic diseases, in line with global best practices.

Dr. Joshua Chepchieng

To sustainably control these diseases, Dr. Sultani Matendechero, Head Kenya National Public Health Institute/ Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NPHI/CDC), pointed out the need to reorganize and collaborate to strengthen surveillance and co-ordinate the public health office to strengthen surveillance and to effectively handle the health matters and policies.

Highlighting the benefits of the strategy, Carla Mucavi, FAO Kenya representative said the implementation of the One health strategy will enhance the national and county multisectoral coordination mechanisms in One Health programming.

Not only this, but it would improve the institutionalization and functionality of the county one health units (COHU) to ensure adequate and cost-effective joint surveillance and simulation and risk assessment, data and information sharing, preparedness and response to emerging zoonotic diseases, she said.

Mucavi added that the plan will help in identifying priority investments for enhancing the diagnostic capacity of national and subnational veterinary and public health laboratories, advocacy for One health policy development, mainstreaming of the Frontline In-Service Applied Veterinary Epidemiology Training (ISAVET), and operationalization of the County Antimicrobial Interagency Steering Committees (CASICS).

Carla Mucavi

The COVID-19 pandemic being a reminder of the threat that novel pathogens pose to the world, Dr. Andrew Thaiya,  USAID Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) advisor Kenya, outlined the need to have a driven multi-sectoral and multidisciplinary One Health approach to effectively address the threats posed by these diseases.

“The one health approach recognizes that no single discipline is able to prevent, detect, and respond to zoonotic diseases and other infectious diseases outbreaks, alone,” he said

Similarly, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) representative, Samuel Wakhusama urged partners to work together to support and improve veterinary services in the country in order to eliminate these diseases

Alongside the strategic plan for One Health, other strategic plans that were launched include the Anthrax and Brucellosis Control Strategies in Humans and Animals.

Other organizations in attendance were the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), Geographic Information System (GIS), International Livestock Research Institute(ILRI), World Animal Protection, Africa One Health University Network (AFROHUN), The Kenya Veterinary Association (K.V.A), Kenya Wildlife service (KWS), Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and the Kenya Red Cross.