Insights: Why food security is a pressing priority in the IMETA region Insights: Why food security is a pressing priority in the IMETA region
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Insights: Why food security is a pressing priority in the IMETA region

Insights: Why food security is a pressing priority in the IMETA region

Twenty per cent of livestock production is lost to disease every year, while one-third of all food produced is wasted

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Evren Ozlu

The lives of animals and humans are interconnected in profound and complex ways. Many of the world’s global challenges, from mitigating climate change to pandemic preparedness and food security and safety, can’t be managed successfully without considering animals and their wellbeing.

By 2030, our global population is reportedly expected to grow to 8.5 billion, and as the human population continues to expand, protein is at the heart of the food security debate. Yet, 20 per cent of livestock production is lost to disease every year, while one-third of all food produced is wasted.

One key area that needs attention is poultry production, which plays a vital role in meeting India, the Middle East, Turkey and Africa (IMETA) region’s demand for affordable animal proteins. The area represents nearly 50 per cent of the global poultry market, represented by 73 countries, and 13.2 billion chickens are produced here annually. Providing nutritious food while preserving animal wellbeing in environmentally sustainable conditions is key to ensuring food security for so many people.

The statistics highlight that there is an urgent need to ensure good health for humans, animals and the environment, as each has the potential to act as an entry point for diseases that can have huge implications on the other.

Disease evolution
Until today, the first world countries have followed a slaughter policy to control and eradicate the field outbreaks of this disease in their countries. The highly pathogenic Avian Influenza caused by either H5 and H7 subtypes forms part of the list A of diseases that must be reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and are a cause of restriction for commerce. Avian Influenza is considered a risk and possible threat to human beings. As of today, these subtypes don’t infect human beings, but the nature of these viruses poses a risk of recombination and mutation that might enable them to do so in the future.

To help combat diseases, the industry has seen an increase in demand for vaccinations that can be performed in hatcheries, which can offer improved efficiency and easy administration.
Therefore, countries in the IMETA region must join forces and develop strategies to control such infectious diseases with high economic impact.

Focus on collaboration and technology
A recent communication from the Ministers of Agriculture from the EU agreed to modify their strategy and recommend the use of vaccines to combat Avian Influenza disease, something that was previously forbidden.Several countries are also proactively taking steps to promote poultry welfare. For instance, the UAE government’s Smart Early Warning System for Biological Security initiative seeks to develop a nationwide smart e-system that documents reports about animal diseases, agricultural pests, notifications related to local and imported foods and biological security.

Whereas in Egypt, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO) Africa Sustainable Livestock 2050 (ASL2050) initiative is looking to identify and support livestock and poultry policies that, while tapping into opportunities, also effectively deal with the anticipated challenges for public health, society and the environment.

In June, I attended the first African Meeting of the Morocco Association of Avian Pathology (AMPA) and World Veterinary Poultry Association (WVPA), where topics from disease updates, vaccine strategies, and solutions were discussed. The event was crucial to establishing an exchange of knowledge and experiences on relevant topics related to poultry production and diseases in the IMETA region between veterinarians, scientists and local authorities.

Evren Ozlu is the head of animal health IMETA at Boehringer Ingelheim

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