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Updated On: Tuesday, October 17 2017

Vaccinating Syrian Livestock Seen as Key to Regional Health

Content by: South-South News

16 April 2015, New York, USA | Brendan Pastor – The violence in Syria has resulted in the flight of hundreds of thousands of civilians from communities in the region to safe zones in neighboring countries like Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. However, health officials have begun to express concern over the movement of unvaccinated livestock who can potentially carry debilitating diseases that, if left unchecked, can spread through local populations.

In an effort to address this health situation, officials from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization have partnered with national health representatives to provide vaccines to goats, sheep and cows along the Syrian and Lebanese border in an effort to minimize risk of animal-to-animal infection.

FAO's regional representative, Maruice Saade, explained that the breakdown of Syria's public health policies threatened to spread to other countries.

"There were lots of animals crossing the border from Syria to Lebanon and many diseases were transmitted and there were the beginnings of certain outbreaks of animal diseases, so the main objective is to protect the main Lebanese cattle – whether it is sheep, goats, and cows," Saade says.

"The problem is not minute," Elias Ibrahim, the chief veterinary officer of Lebanon's ministry of agriculture, said. "We know there are many areas in Syria that are no longer under the control of the official Syrian authorities or any other party. Veterinary services in these areas that are close to the Lebanese border have become degraded to the point of non-existence, and this had a major effect on the animal industries and animal resources."

The influx of Syrians present in Lebanon has been growing steadily – as many as 1.5 million refugees are now registered there. Their presence is putting an added strain on Lebanon's natural resources and the agriculture sector.

Transboundary animal diseases are highly contagious epidemic diseases that can spread extremely rapidly, irrespective of national borders. They cause high rates of death and disease in animals, thereby having serious socio-economic and sometimes public health consequences.

Bruno Minjauw, FAO'S ‎resilience and liaison officer in Lebanon, described current efforts to prevent further spread of diseases.

"We are covering over 95 percent of the national heard. We want to vaccinate against three trans-boundary animal diseases, meaning that they are very contagious diseases that can move from one country to another," Minjauw explained. "We are protecting the national herd against foot and mouth disease, peste des petits ruminants, and lumpy skin disease

"And due to the crisis in Syria, we are very worried that those diseases could come into the country."

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