Maj. Gen. David Kasura, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) has said Government is committed to increasing the number of the In-service Applied Veterinary Epidemiology Trained Personnel (ISAVETs) in the country.
Currently, there are 87 ISAVETs out of a total number of 2,184 sub counties across the country.
In a speech read by Dr. Anna Rose Okurut, the Commissioner Animal Health at MAAIF, during the graduation of the 3rd cohort on Friday in Jinja, Maj. Gen. Kasura revealed that government has plans of taking over this Course.
“We shall do this through collaboration with development partners and may be extend these trainings to regional levels to cut expenses. Government recognizes the importance of ISAVETs because they will largely help in detecting and surveillance of animal diseases, before they spread,” he said.
During the graduation, a total of 40 ISAVETs, who underwent a four-month intense training by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) were passed out to join the 21 that were trained in the 2nd cohort and 20 in the first cohort, who graduated in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
“I am optimistic that with the ISAVET personnel, the country is assured of early disease detection and my ministry is committed to ensuring that each of the 2194 sub counties have an ISAVET personnel,” he said
The ISAVET Program was launched in Uganda in 2018 to address the gaps existing in the animal health workforce in the field of epidemiology.
Speaking at the event, Priya Gujadhur, the Deputy Country Representative of FAO said that the program was launched to develop transferable, critical-thinking skills in the veterinary workforce, strengthen frontline preparedness, early detection, and rapid, effective and efficient response to zoonotic diseases, transboundary animal diseases, emerging infectious diseases, and antimicrobial resistance within an integrative One Health approach.
“Through this ISAVET training, we have observed some notable achievements. They include but not limited to the following; Increased knowledge, skills, and competencies in epidemiology and improvement in delivery of daily duties in animal health, Fostered regional network for continued professional development of Frontline ISAVET Graduates; and Increased understanding of Trans boundary Animal Diseases, Emerging and Re-emerging infectious diseases and zoonotic threats (including AMU/AMR) at a local level,” she said
Others are; enhanced sustainability and longevity of epidemiology units within governments for increased career opportunities such as; becoming trainers, responders to public health emergencies of zoonotic nature among others and enhanced disease surveillance, reporting and early response in areas where ISAVET trainees work.
FAO, she said, believes that strengthening capacity for disease control especially zoonotic diseases is critical to reducing human disease, safeguarding lives and livelihoods, and fostering food security for all.
“Therefore, the importance of such training is clear when the alternative is considered. The direct cost of zoonotic diseases at global level, over the last decade, has been estimated to be more than $20 billion with over $200 billion indirect losses to affected economies as a whole (World Bank 2010),” she said.
“The impact of disease is even much greater due to loss of lives, reduced opportunities, livelihoods and social welfare – not fully quantified for different diseases in most developing countries like Uganda. Lack of appropriate or timely action can amplify loss of life and costs of control, especially were zoonotic diseases,” she added.
Dr. Sarah Paige, the Advisor of Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), the main funders, said that they embrace the One Health approach in its framework to make the world safe and secure from infectious disease threats.
“Global health security aims to strengthen the ability of human, animal, and environmental health systems to prepare for, prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats, wherever they occur in the world. Achieving global health security requires a sustained, coordinated, and multisectoral “One Health” approach that incorporates an understanding of the linkages between human, animal, and environmental health,” she said.