The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the power zoonoses have to disrupt global public health, economies and food systems. Beyond the pandemics popularized in the media, zoonoses are silent killers in low- and middle-income countries, infecting several billion people each year and killing millions, while having devastating economic consequences. Around 60% of all human infectious diseases and around 75% of emerging human infectious diseases are zoonotic.
For more than a quarter-century, CGIAR scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) have worked to bring to light the economic and poverty impacts of zoonoses, and to establish an evidence base for how poverty can be alleviated and global public health protected through improving animal health. In 2016, their scientific assessment estimated the future costs of zoonotic disease pandemics could be in the same order as those of climate change.
The One Health approach is essential for rapidly urbanizing low- and middle-income countries where food systems and value chains are driven by strong, informal networks
Ongoing work on zoonoses has evolved from a primary focus on veterinary epidemiology to a One Health approach, which unites human health, animal health and environmental or ecosystem health. Research has focused on Rift Valley fever, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and other neglected zoonoses.
The One Health approach is essential for rapidly urbanizing low- and middle-income countries where food systems and value chains are driven by strong, informal networks. Mapping risks and hotspots in value chains is to key informing a socioeconomic understanding of biological risks and of the role animal-sourced food chains play in the emergence of pathogens in high-density urban environments. Prioritizing surveillance of and evidence on zoonotic diseases allows governments to implement large-scale control. This work has been carried out in numerous countries and provided national policy advice in Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda, and Vietnam.
ILRI’s work forms a strong knowledge base for CGIAR’s response to COVID-19 and is unique to CGIAR. It includes the recently established CGIAR AMR Hub and the One Health Research, Education and Outreach Centre for Africa as well as groundbreaking research shared in the July 2020 report, Preventing the next pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission, published by ILRI and the United Nations Environment Programme.
Header image: Livestock owners Bizunesh and Hibebo Ayele outside a new house built for Hibebo’s brother in Doyogena district, Ethiopia. Photo by G. Smith/ILRI