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FAO, Government of Sierra Leone, & USAID empower frontline veterinary paraprofessionals with ISAVET training


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in partnership with the Government of Sierra Leone and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), launched the Second Cohort of the In-Service Applied Veterinary Epidemiology Training (ISAVET) program in Sierra Leone. This initiative aims to bolster the capabilities of veterinarians and para-veterinary professionals, enhancing the country's capacity to detect and respond effectively to infectious diseases, including zoonotic illnesses transmissible to humans.


The first cohort of ISAVET training, comprising thirteen chosen trainees, was initiated in 2022. The ISAVET training program addresses critical gaps in human resource capacity identified through various assessments, such as the Performance of Veterinary Services Assessment Reports (PVS) Joint External Evaluation Reports (JEE) and FAO Surveillance Assessment Reports utilizing the Surveillance Evaluation Tool (SET). The limited human capacity hinders the provision of animal healthcare and veterinary services to farmers, negatively impacting the health, production, and productivity of livestock in Sierra Leone.



Furthermore, Sierra Leone's rich natural habitat, abundant wildlife species, and increased human-wildlife interactions due to agricultural and hunting activities make it susceptible to emerging and re-emerging diseases such as the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak of 2014-2015, where human interactions were identified as the primary cause of the outbreak. Additionally, porous international boundaries, inadequate animal disease control infrastructure, and limited human resource capacity pose challenges in combating transboundary animal diseases (TADs) and zoonoses such as peste des petits ruminants (PPR), foot and mouth disease, rabies, and brucellosis. These disease outbreaks have significant ramifications for health, the economy, and socio-political stability.


Therefore, epidemiological surveillance, field investigation, response, communication, and prevention and control of animal diseases are crucial competencies required to build the country's capacity to prevent priority transboundary and zoonotic animal diseases at the human-livestock interface at the source.



To address Sierra Leone's limited capacity in animal disease detection and response, the Ministry of Agriculture, supported by the FAO, launched the ISAVET program. This on-the-job training program targets critical skills necessary for effective disease surveillance and response at the local level, focusing on improving disease detection, reporting, and response. The second cohort of twenty-one animal health trainees will undergo four weeks of formal (didactic) training followed by three months of home-based mentored field projects at their respective duty stations. Upon completion of the field case studies and dissemination of their field reports, the trainees will receive a Certificate of Participation.


The launch of the second cohort was graced by high-level representatives from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, academia, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, and the FAO, who delivered statements.



During the launch in Makeni, Mr. Harding Wuyango, Assistant FAO Representative for Programme, emphasized the critical role of field veterinarians and veterinary paraprofessionals in ensuring animal health and economic growth in the sub-sector. He conveyed the greetings of the USAID Country Mission GHS Advisor in Sierra Leone and expressed gratitude for her unwavering support.


Honorable Sahr Hemorh, Deputy Minister 2 of Agriculture and Food Security, who launched the program, highlighted that the ISAVET training would empower the Livestock and Veterinary Service Division to strengthen the national surveillance system and improve the detection and reporting of endemic, emerging, and re-emerging diseases, serving as a springboard for the Government of Sierra Leone's Feed Salone flagship program.


The ISAVET program was initiated in 2018 by FAO, the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD) of Texas A&M University, and collaborators to address endemic, emerging infectious, and transboundary animal diseases (EIDs and TADs) in fourteen countries of West, Central, and East Africa.



The program is implemented through the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) initiative with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The ISAVET program provides "training through service" to agriculture ministries by training field veterinarians and paraprofessionals in disease detection, reporting, and response to zoonoses and animal-specific diseases.


In preparation for the launch of the ISAVET program in Sierra Leone, several activities were undertaken, including the establishment of the National ISAVET Programme Steering Committee (NIPSC) to coordinate and supervise the implementation of the ISAVET program in the country, the identification and training of trainers and mentors, and the selection of trainees through a competitive process.





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