MOZAMBIQUE/ZIMBABWE – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with the Governments of Mozambique and Zimbabwe, has unveiled a U.S$500,000 Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP).

This initiative aims to bolster food and nutrition security and enhance access to markets for livestock and livestock products by improving control over two significant diseases: theileriosis and Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) serotype O in Southern Africa.

The TCP directly aligns with Zimbabwe’s livestock growth plan, focusing on animal health to achieve its goal of increasing the national cattle herd from 5.5 million to 6 million by 2030.

Disease outbreaks like FMD have a detrimental effect on beef exports and negatively impact the economy. Trade embargoes due to FMD can limit exports, even for non-livestock products from affected areas.

Threat in Southern Africa

Southern Africa faces significant challenges from tick-borne diseases (TBDs) affecting cattle, including theileriosis (commonly known as January disease), babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis.

In Zimbabwe, these TBDs contribute to over 60 percent of ruminant livestock deaths, with theileriosis being the primary cause of TBD-induced cattle fatalities since 2017.

Theileriosis is a fatal protozoal infection characterized by symptoms such as fever, lymph node enlargement, eye cloudiness with watery discharge, mouth and nostril frothing, and even sudden death.

Furthermore, during the 2022/2023 rainy season, an unusually high number of cattle deaths occurred due to theileriosis, surpassing previous records. Zimbabwe is also at risk of an outbreak of FMD serotype O, a disease previously absent in Southern Africa.

FMD is an acute viral infection affecting cloven-hoofed animals, both domestic and wild. Symptoms include fever, blisters in the mouth and feet, and sudden lameness. The recent presence of FMD serotype O in Mozambique and Zambia, countries sharing borders with Zimbabwe, poses a potential threat.

Role of TCP Program

The launch of the “Emergency support to mitigate theileriosis disease in Zimbabwe and the risk of FMD serotype O in Southern Africa” project (TCP/SFS/3908) was necessitated by the growing cattle fatalities in Zimbabwe due to theileriosis and the looming risk of FMD serotype O in the region. This TCP initiative aims to combat these diseases effectively.

Dr. Américo Manuel da Conceição, Chief Veterinary Officer for Mozambique, expressed appreciation for FAO’s support in the fight against FMD, particularly the timely TCP intervention amidst outbreaks of FMD serotype O.

FAO’s efforts in this TCP program will focus on building capacity, advancing knowledge, and drawing on international expertise to combat these animal diseases sustainably. The program will enhance surveillance, offer training to key personnel and farmers, and reduce the risk posed by FMD serotype O, benefiting not only Mozambique and Zimbabwe but the entire region.

In recent years, FAO has been actively involved in assisting countries in the region in addressing livestock-related emergencies arising from disease outbreaks and natural disasters.

The organization’s technical assistance aims to control transboundary animal diseases, with specific efforts to mitigate the spread of FMD serotype O, which has impacted Malawi, Comoros, Zambia, and other neighboring countries.

The TCP program is designed to complement existing efforts at the country level to combat the effects of these two significant animal diseases.

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