ROME, 28th October, 2016 (WAM) — The ground has been broken on a major international initiative to rid the world of Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) – also known as sheep and goat plague – a highly contagious viral animal disease that causes major losses in regions home to millions of the world’s poorest people.

The $996.4 -million plan launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) today is the first phase of what will be a 15-year effort to eradicate PPR by 2030.

“Wiping out PPR will have a major positive impact on the lives of pastoralist communities in all developing countries and directly support global efforts to end poverty and hunger by 2030,” FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said about the plan.

“We have international standards for surveillance and diagnosis of PPR, a global system to report outbreaks, and standards for vaccines that are highly effective when applied appropriately,” OIE Director-General Monique Eloit said.

Since it was first identified in C?te d’Ivoire in 1942, PPR has spread to some 70 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia — in September 2016, Mongolia reported its first-ever case of PPR. Over 80 percent of the world’s sheep and goats are found in these regions, where many families rely heavily on products like goat milk, mutton and wool for their nutrition and livelihoods. FAO estimates some 300 million small-scale farming families worldwide depend on small ruminants for food and income.

In all, the annual global damage due to PPR is estimated to be between $1.4 and $2.1 billion.

The plan for the first five-year phase of that effort is now ready to be put into action and consists of a global strategy backed by nine regional road maps.

The initial portion of the campaign is focused on countries where PPR is known to exist or where its status has never been assessed. It will involve activities to raise awareness among farmers, build their capacity to prevent and contain the disease, strengthen national veterinary health services and systems for control of PPR and other diseases, and implement targeted vaccination campaigns.

But the plan goes beyond disease eradication alone- it also aims to improve national production models and help herders build the strongest, most resilient livelihoods with their animal resources.

With the world population set to rise to over 9.7 billion by 2050, small ruminant production is expected to rise with growing demand for meat and milk, growth that is generating new opportunities for producers, processers, and sellers. With that comes stronger interest from governments and industry to make supply chains more reliable and the movement of animals safer.

WAM/tfaham