SIERRA LEONE – The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has trained 11 frontline health workers in applied epidemiology, the One Health approach, and community engagement capabilities for better control and management of emerging and re-emerging zoonotic diseases, through the use of new diagnostic and surveillance skills.

The four-month-long training titled, “In-Service Applied Veterinary Epidemiology Training (ISAVET)”, entailed a month-long classwork that focused on epidemiological surveillance, field investigation and response, epidemiological methods, preparedness, ethics and professionalism, disease prevention and control, and One Health.

The eleven trainees were drawn from national, and district-level Livestock and Veterinary Services, the Ministry of Environment, and Njala University.

They successfully completed practical field trainings in their respective work stations and participated in producing weekly surveillance reports, conducting data quality audits, and field case studies to address county-specific animal health needs.

The programme is implemented through the USAID-funded Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA).

FAO Deputy Representative to Sierra Leone, Harding Wuyango, congratulated the graduands for completing the in-service training and encouraged them to put into practice what they had learnt over the last four months for the benefit of their immediate community and the country.

“FAO will continue to work very closely with the Government of Sierra Leone to support the livestock sector,” he promised and acknowledged the continued funding support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), aimed at strengthening animal health and One Health in Sierra Leone.

Dayo Walter-Spencers, the USAID Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) Advisor, stated in her remarks that field veterinarians and veterinary para-professionals are a crucial human resource for ensuring animal health and the sub-economic sector’s success.

“Field investigation is critical to curbing animal disease outbreaks; these frontline animal health service providers detect and respond to potentially zoonotic infectious diseases at their source. 

“ISAVET training will empower the Livestock and Veterinary Service Division to strengthen the national surveillance system and improve detection and reporting of endemic, emerging, and re-emerging diseases,” she said.

The Minister’s representative, Mohammed Alpha Bah, Director of Livestock and Veterinary Services in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, lauded ISAVET for its significant contributions to the provision of animal health services in Sierra Leone.

“The milestones would not have been reached without the great work put in by various ISAVET stakeholders,” he said.

He lauded the on-the-job training program that addresses critical skills needed to effectively conduct surveillance and response to animal diseases at the local level, focusing on improving disease detection, reporting, and response.

The first cohort of ISAVET graduates now join the world’s network of applied field epidemiologists with enhanced abilities to gather, analyze, and interpret data and contribute to interventions and decisions based on evidence.

The ISAVET program trains field veterinarians and paraprofessionals in disease detection, reporting, and response to zoonoses and animal-specific diseases as “training through service” to the ministries of agriculture and the environment.

“As an ISAVET graduate, I will utilize these skills in improving the epidemio-surveillance system in my country for prevention, early detection, and timely response of priority zoonotic diseases such as anthrax and transboundary animal diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease, which are of concern to the county,” Josephine Satta Fillie, one of the graduands said.

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