One Health: Professional Stakeholder Engagement Key to Tackling Zoonotic Disease


Globally, endemic and emergent disease risks persist as significant challenges to human and animal health. Rural livestock farming communities in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are disproportionately affected by zoonoses and animal diseases due to poverty and concomitant poorly available health and veterinary services. In countries heavily reliant on animal production for socio-economic stability, the impact of zoonotic disease is devastating. A One Health approach to tackling zoonosis is now broadly advocated and a successful strategy requires sector stakeholder recognition, inclusion, and engagement to ensure a holistic response to a complex problem.

Agriculture and Poverty

Livestock farming is essential to the livelihoods of many rural Africans1, with lives immersed in animal production for self-sufficiency, and increasingly robust home and export markets. Pastoralist systems are prevalent in arid regions where inconsistent rainfall prohibits effective crop production, promoting animal farming as a dependable source of income2. As 66% of Africa’s land expanse is used to graze animals, pastoralism is a vital part of the African economy. Animals also fulfil a spiritual and cultural role in rural populations through ritualised practices that enhance self-knowledge and identity. Livestock production contributes to almost half of the global agricultural gross domestic product (GDP)3, yet poverty in the Sub-Saharan African farmer community is widespread and persistent.

Livestock Sector and Production

In some regions, the international meat export markets have surged, with growing demand from the EU and Norway for meat products from Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, and South Africa. After almost twenty years of lobbying and the successful introduction of strict biosecurity measures, in 2020, the Namibian state-owned Meat Corporation of Namibia (MeatCo) entered the American meat market, with an initial shipment of 25 tonnes of beef to Philadelphia. The approval will enable MeatCo to deliver 860 tonnes in the first trading year, with a target annual delivery of 5,000 tonnes. The Kenyan Meat Commission routinely exports to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, confirming globalisation of the animal products export market. This sector makes an increasingly important contribution to the national economy of many Sub-Saharan African nations, but in districts where commercial and subsistence farming systems run in close proximity, and disease risks from wildlife persist, then securing livestock health is challenging. Low livestock productivity is attributed to weak production systems and poor animal health 4,5, often linked to restricted access to comprehensive animal health services.

Zoonotic Disease

Millions of lives are affected on a global basis daily by zoonotic disease. The outbreak of COVID-19 brings a stark reminder of the ongoing risk to human health, and modelling of worldwide disease outbreaks indicates that around three-quarters of emergent human disease is zoonotic in origin3. Endemic zoonoses have a devastating effect on human health and livelihoods, as well as animal health, welfare, and production. Rural communities in LMICs are the most vulnerable to zoonotic disease6 due to the close residence of people with animals and dependence on livestock farming, traditional food consumption practices, and limited access to human and animal health services3,7. Endemic zoonotic disease outbreaks continue to be problematic and since 2000, a number of epidemic zoonoses not previously known have been widely reported (Table 1).