Home News General The role of para-professionals in the delivery of veterinary services in Africa

(9th October 2015) Efficient surveillance, early detection and rapid response to animal disease outbreaks are key steps for maintaining animal health, protecting human health and securing the income of poor rural populations. To further discuss these key steps, a conference will gather representatives of the African veterinarian authorities, veterinary para-professional associations and federations to strengthen links and collaboration to ensure optimal quality field work and improved animal health delivery service. This conference, organised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), in collaboration with Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed) and Africa Veterinary Technicians Association (AVTA) is the first of its kind at a continental scale and will take place from 13 to 15 October 2015 in South Africa.

Animal health surveillance and management are complex. In a world where five emerging diseases appear each year, infectious disease agents and toxins found in animal populations and animal products are a considerable and on-going threat to animal health, economies, biodiversity, food security, food safety and public health. The growing importance of animal diseases and zoonoses has strengthened the essential need for a strong and well-trained veterinary network worldwide, composed of professionals whose ethics and capacities are supervised by the national veterinary authority and followed by Veterinary Statutory Bodies (VSB), as described by the OIE standards.

Nevertheless, in some parts of the world, particularly on the African continent, building and maintaining a strong and effective veterinary network is a real challenge due to both economic and environmental causes. Many rural areas are characterised by limited or no accessibility to veterinary services due to socio-cultural factors such as the capacity of livestock owners to pay the appropriate amount for the services provided by veterinarians. In countries where there is a limited availability of veterinarians and resources, Veterinary Para-Professionals (VPP)[1] have a vital role to play in supporting the work of the Veterinary Services, in particular veterinarians.

Some examples supporting the role of VPP in disease surveillance and control can be found in Africa, with the previous eradication of rinderpest[2]. They greatly contributed to the work of the veterinarians to stop the circulation of the rinderpest virus. They also made a great contribution in supporting the veterinary services towards the control and eradication activities in areas of insecurity (where activities of conventional service providers were often highly restricted). They also received great support from Community-based Animal Health Workers (CAHWs)(these are livestock owners who have received very short training in basic animal health principles and living within their communities.)

It must, however, be pointed out that surveillance and control of animal health needs be supervised by competent, high-level veterinarians. Accreditation schemes for Veterinary Para-Professionals could be useful to increase the veterinary presence in the field, under the supervision of the Veterinary Authority and the VSB, as prescribed by OIE Standards.

The conference will bring representatives of the African national associations and federations of VPP from more than 18 African countries as well as representatives of the National Veterinary Authorities, Veterinary Services and Veterinary Statutory Bodies (Veterinary Council or Board).  Delegates will also address the need for Member Countries to implement the optimal structure and functions for the Veterinary Statutory Body in their countries, as well as the importance of continuous professional development programmes for veterinary quality control.

The conference is co-funded by the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), GALVMED, through UK Government and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funding, and the OIE World Fund, using grants from the European Commission, in the framework of the Strengthening Veterinary Governance in Africa (VETGOV) project, hosted by IBAR.

Journalists are welcome to attend the open sessions of the meeting.

For media accreditation, please go to the conference website

To know more:

[1] Veterinary Para-Professional (VPP), as defined in the glossary of the OIE Terrestrial Code means “a person who is authorised by the Veterinary Statutory Body to carry out certain designated tasks (dependent upon the category of Veterinary Para-Professional) in a territory, and delegated to them under the responsibility and direction of a veterinarian. The tasks for each category of Veterinary Para-Professional should be defined by the Veterinary Statutory Body depending on qualifications and training, and according to need”.