World animal health gurus to descend on Swakopmund

Bearing the torch… Deputy minister of agriculture, Anna Sheweda, speaking at the OIE conference earlier this year in Paris, France.


As the first country in Africa to gain negligible bovine spongiform encephalopathy status recognition about its mad cow disease risk management, Namibia has been chosen to stage the prestigious 22nd International Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) conference of the OIE Regional Commission for Africa from 21 to 24 February 2017 in Swakopmund.

The conference, regarded as the holy grail of animal health issues, will confirm and acknowledge Namibia’s animal health status after the country also recently became the first African country whose beef qualified for exports to China and America. More than 700 delegates are expected to attend the event.

The remarkable achievement of Namibia’s meat industry being mad cow disease free was announced at the 84th OIE conference held from May 22 to 27 in Paris, France this year. Deputy minister of agriculture Anna Sheweeda attended the event on behalf of Namibia.
Six countries in Europe, Africa and the Americas were recognised as having a “negligible BSE risk”; while Namibia has become the first country in Africa to be awarded official disease-free status in regard to BSE.

Paul Strydom, the general manager of the Meat Board of Namibia yesterday told New Era Namibia should be very proud of the recent string of incredible achievements, saying the country has again taken the lead in Africa to change perceptions about the animal health status of Africa.

“These breakthroughs with animal health status push Namibia to the top of the African continent and we should all be very proud of the achievements,” he noted.

Namibia’s latest achievement also comes soon after the Directorate of Veterinary Services successfully combatted two outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease last year at a whopping cost of N$180 million.

Mad cow disease is an infectious disease caused by prions that affect the brains of cattle. The actual name of the disease is bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), a name that refers to the changes seen in brain tissue of affected cows.

If humans eat diseased tissue from affected cattle, they may develop the human form of mad cow disease known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) or new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The several problems encountered in most African countries were highlighted – especially as they relate to the lack of expertise within the veterinary services to measure the economic impacts of disease outbreaks as well as the costs and benefits of disease control programmes.

In this regard, Namibia has been hailed for the swift manner in which the Directorate of Veterinary Services took care of the two FMD outbreaks last year.

Next year’s meeting will be the opportunity to share information on the activities and work programme of the animal health programmes and activities related to the strengthening of veterinary services in Africa.

Of particular interest from the African perspective, is the new chapter on the welfare of working equids (horses, donkeys and mules), since these equids play an important role in Africa, and often face welfare issues. The African countries have indicated that this chapter will greatly help the Member States to address the issues. They however, brought to the attention of the Assembly the fact that many other classes of working animals such as camelids, cattle, buffaloes, dogs are potentially affected by welfare issues and recommended either developing specific chapters for these species, or enlarging the scope of this chapter to include other working animals.


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