|Year : 2020 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 50-51
Animal welfare, One Health and emergency preparedness and response in the Asia-Pacific region
Gyanendra Gongal, Roderico H Ofrin
World Health Organization Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization Regional Office for South-East Asia, New Delhi, India
|Date of Web Publication||26-Apr-2020|
Dr Gyanendra Gongal
World Health Organization Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization Regional Office for South-East Asia, New Delhi
The Asia-Pacific region is vulnerable to a wide range of emergencies and natural disasters that are becoming more frequent because of seismic activity, climate change and changes in human development. For the rural poor in low-income settings, animals are valued beyond their financial worth as a fundamental part of human existence and livelihoods. Despite this recognition, animals are rarely included in national disaster plans and investments, and their needs are rarely factored into relief operations. Any natural disaster has short-term and long-term consequences that affect animals along with humans. For example, post-disaster community rehabilitation programmes may be strengthened by factors such as compensation for livestock losses. Emergency and disaster preparedness, response and recovery planning should follow the One Health approach by considering animal welfare, including rehabilitation and economic recovery.
Keywords: Asia-Pacific region, disaster, livelihood, livestock, One Health
|How to cite this article:|
Gongal G, Ofrin RH. Animal welfare, One Health and emergency preparedness and response in the Asia-Pacific region. WHO South-East Asia J Public Health 2020;9:50-1
|How to cite this URL:|
Gongal G, Ofrin RH. Animal welfare, One Health and emergency preparedness and response in the Asia-Pacific region. WHO South-East Asia J Public Health [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Apr 14];9:50-1. Available from: http://www.who-seajph.org/text.asp?2020/9/1/50/282996
| Background|| |
Livestock are an integral part of the agricultural system and rural life. Livestock are needed for food supply, family nutrition, family income, asset savings, soil productivity, livelihoods, transport, agricultural traction, agricultural diversification and sustainable agricultural production, family and community employment, ritual purposes and social status. Livestock are known as “living banks” by poor farmers because they can be sold when money is needed for a family emergency. In 2009, an estimated 987 million people living in extreme poverty worldwide depended on livestock as a source of income and social security. The direct and indirect values of animals in low-income settings are often under-recognised and underestimated when attempts are made to understand the impact of disasters. In high-income countries, disaster-related livestock losses are essentially financial. For the rural poor in low-income countries, livestock are not only financial assets but also an integral part of people’s lives and livelihoods.
The Asia-Pacific region is vulnerable to a wide range of emergencies and natural disasters such as epidemics, floods, cyclones, earthquakes, droughts and landslides; these events are becoming more frequent as a result of intermittent seismic activities, climate change and changes in human development, such as rapid urbanization. There are a number of global and regional initiatives that aim to build the resilience of nations and communities to disasters, focusing on making the investment case for emergency preparedness rather than response, and on promotion of the whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030 recognizes that effective disaster risk reduction requires protection of livelihoods and productive assets, including livestock, working animals, tools and seeds. Despite this recognition, animals are rarely included in national disaster plans and investments in lower-income settings, and their needs are rarely factored into relief operations.
| Lessons from the effects of past disasters on animals|| |
When disasters hit, animals experience the same terrible effects as people: injury, starvation, thirst, displacement, illness and stress. This can be illustrated by the scenes witnessed by one of the authors (GG) during the devastating floods in Nepal in 1994, when visiting badly affected villages in Chitwan with the district veterinary officer. Dairy cattle were buried in mud, and the safe removal of their waterlogged bodies was challenging. The Nepal earthquake in 2015 resulted in the deaths of an estimated 6 million to 9 million animals, mostly livestock. Poultry houses were destroyed and, in the most highly affected districts, livestock were injured or killed when their mud and rock shelters collapsed. Unfortunately, the national disaster preparedness plan does not cover animal rescue and rehabilitation, and it was extremely difficult for nongovernmental organizations involved in animal rescue and welfare activities to mobilize resources and to get government permission for their activities. Nevertheless, volunteers and veterinarians were able to provide badly needed rescue operations and veterinary support in rural areas. Livestock owners also understood the importance of livestock as part of their family livelihood. For example, it was astonishing to see a temporary shelter being used for a milking buffalo by a livestock owner in Chapagaon in Lalitpur district; the shelter had been provided by the government for the family’s use.
Any natural disaster has short-term and long-term consequences, which should be taken into consideration in emergency preparedness and response planning. Livestock are a source of livelihood for poor farmers, and it is important to consider including compensation for their loss in rehabilitation programmes, as taking out a livestock insurance policy is generally beyond the reach of poor farmers. A positive example of considering livestock losses for compensation as a part of a community rehabilitation programme occurred in Timor-Leste, following fires in Liquica and Ermera villages in September 2019 (Dr Rajesh Pandav, WHO Representative to Timor-Leste, personal communication, 11 October 2019).
| Conclusions and the way forward|| |
In the light of lessons learnt from the Nepal earthquake, a session on disaster preparedness and response at the human–animal interface was included in a workshop organized by the tripartite coordination mechanism for the Asia-Pacific region in Sapporo, Japan, in 2015, which was attended by public health and animal health officials from a wide range of Asian countries. Case studies and lessons learnt from the Nepal earthquake and from Typhoon Haiyan (Super-Typhoon Yolanda) in the Philippines were presented and discussed. There was a consensus among participants that we have to ensure that companion and livestock animals are included in disaster preparedness and response plans using the One Health approach, to help animals, communities and local people survive and thrive after disasters. It was clear that, while public health sectors have their emergency preparedness and response plans in place, with regular testing of coordination mechanisms and functional status, the equivalents for animal health either do not exist or are weak and cover only animal welfare aspects.
Natural disasters are happening more frequently in countries of the Asia-Pacific region, which have a detrimental impact on humans, animals and the environment, including on people’s livelihoods. There is a need for joint and/or coordinated emergency preparedness and response planning using the One Health approach.
Source of support: None.
Conflict of interest: None declared.
Authorship: GG developed the first draft. RHO provided input and refined versions of the manuscript.
| References|| |
Livestock, food security and poverty reduction. In: The state of food and agriculture 2009: livestock in the balance. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; 2009:32–52 (http://www.fao.org/3/i0680e/i0680e03.pdf
, accessed 16 March 2020).
Nepal Earthquake Disaster Operations Team. After-action report of Humane Society International’s emergency response to the April 2015 Earthquake in Nepal. Global Disaster Response Reports 1. Washington (DC): The Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy; 2015 (http://animalstudiesrepository.org/gdrp/1
, accessed 18 March 2020).