Delegates from fifteen African countries have called for the recognition of the role of veterinary professionals in providing vital animal health to millions of livestock keepers across Africa. This was done at the ongoing first African conference on the Role of Veterinary Para-professionals looking at strengthening the linkages and collaborations between Veterinarians and veterinary-para-professionals to improve veterinary services especially in rural communities.
Speaking during the opening session of the conference, Johan Oosthuizen, the Chairperson of the South African Association of Veterinary Para-Professionals (SAAVP) pointed out that the for a long time the contributions of vet para-professionals have been neglected and the time has come to recognise their existence and give them the opportunity to express themselves. This is because without the participation of the vet para-professionals it would be very difficult to control and eradicate livestock diseases.
Dr Monique Eloit, Deputy Director for the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said that this conference is especially timely because the role of veterinary para-professionals within the system of veterinary governance continues to remain a very relevant matter in Africa. She reiterated that collaboration between key stakeholders is very important to achieve the broader common goal of improving animal health and developing the national economy, as well as the social empowerment of farming communities and food security for the poor.
Africa, a hotbed of vet paraprofessionals
On his part, the chairperson of the Association of Veterinary Technicians in Africa (AVTA) Mr Benson Ameda said that Africa is a hotbed of very vibrant paraprofessionals with potential to work with many rural livestock keepers but they still face a number of challenges and still need to be strengthened to realise their full potential. “If paraprofessionals are fully brought on board, issues of diseases will be a thing of the past,” he said.
Addressing the key issues
Peter Jeffries, the CEO for the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines underlined some of the key issues that still need to be addressed including setting up mechanisms to encourage veterinarians to move to the rural areas, encouraging and rewarding properly qualified Para-vets and Community Animal Health Workers with clearly delineated limits of authority under the authority of a veterinarian, accrediting courses and qualifications for the para-Professionals and monitoring their performance and those of CAHWs.
And in a speech read on his behalf, the South African Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Mr. Senzeni Zokwana said that enhanced economic collaboration in Africa will only be achieved if barriers to inter-trade such as sanitary issues in the animal health sector are dealt with. Veterinary professionals play a significant role in the reassurances needed to ensure that trade in animals and animal products take place. He also cautioned the veterinarians and Para-Professionals against only working to fight animal disease outbreaks but they should also take preventative measures such as extensive vaccinations of animals and educating the public on how to prevent diseases.