Animal Health Care: Stakeholders Call for More Diagnostic Laboratories

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Details of a report on disease control in Africa, carried out by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in 2011 by the Deputy Director General, ILRI, Dr. John McDermott, revealed that livestock diseases present both economic and health dangers to developing countries like Nigeria.

According to him, “Wealthy countries are effectively dealing with livestock diseases, but in Africa and Asia, the capacity of veterinary services to track and control outbreaks is lagging dangerously behind livestock intensification’.

Also, Professor Iruka Okeke, a Professor of Pharmaceutical Microbiology at the University of Ibadan recently lamented the limited diagnostic capacity in many African countries and its impact on global health security.

While speaking during an annual conference organized by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Nigeria Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (NFELTP), Prof. Okeke said, the common belief that some diseases disappear closer to the equator might not mean that they did not occur but could also mean that those diseases are less diagnosed closer to the equator. For her, this is worrying and she said: “We cannot have a secure world if we cannot have pathogens and diseases diagnosed in the areas where they emerge”.

She emphasized the need for the establishment of more diagnostic laboratories with skilled professionals in African countries where tests and preemptive diagnosis can be carried out to prevent further outbreak of animal diseases.

In Nigeria, the Livestock sub-sector contributes 5.8% of National Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provides livelihood to over 30% of Nigerian rural population.

However, diseases outbreaks have continued to be one of the nightmares of the industry. According to reports, poultry farmers are often frustrated and dejected and at times lose hope in the industry because many have lost humongous resources due to disease outbreak.

Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP), Peste des Petits Ruminant (PPR) Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), Avian Influenza (HPAI) African Swine Fever (ASF) etc. are some of the diseases that have bedeviled and crippled the growth of the sector, causing huge financial loss and indebtedness to poultry farmers.

Commenting on the state of the poultry industry in Nigeria, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh while speaking during the commissioning of Chi Farm’s City Laboratory in Ibadan, Oyo State recently, noted that for a livestock business to be profitable, it is imperative that diseases are effectively controlled and eradicated.

He pointed out that, this can only be achieved through efficient and accurate animal disease diagnosis.

“It is worthy to note that animal disease diagnosis is an important component of veterinary services and that Nigeria has quite a number of laboratories that is carrying out animal disease diagnosis such as National Veterinary Research Institute, VOM and eleven (11No) Veterinary Teaching Hospitals (VTHs) as well as few private veterinary laboratories that are operating at below their optimal levels thereby leading to huge gap in veterinary diagnostic services”

The Minister expressed hope that more animal health diagnosis centers like the newly established City Laboratory will help Federal Government’s vision of ensuring profitability for farmers.

The Laboratory which was established by Chi Farms, a subsidiary of Tropical General Investment (TGI) Group and Zoetis, a global animal health company under its African Livestock Productivity and Health Advancement (A.L.P.H.A.) initiative, according to the Minister, will go a long way in complementing the effort of the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI) in reducing the chances of animal disease outbreak in the country through quality diagnosis and research for preemptive mitigation against production loses.

In his words:” The establishment and equipping of Chi Farm’s ultra-modern veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory could not have come at a better time than now that Nigeria is looking forward to diversification of its economy through agricultural and other non-oil sectors. I have been made to understand that this laboratory is mainly targeting the diagnosis of poultry business across the six (6) states of the south-west zone, Kwara state. This, I believe, will lead to rapid diagnosis and effectively tackle the menace of animal diseases.

I therefore wish to use this opportunity to appreciate Zoetis-ALPHA and Chi Farms for the initiative and call on other foreign organizations to partner with Nigeria to meet international best practices in animal health and veterinary services” He said.

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