WHO, FAO, and OIE call for stronger coordination in mitigating health threats

In a joint statement released today, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and WHO, committed to strengthening multisectoral coordination and efforts to combat health threats associated with interactions between humans, animals and the environment across Europe and central Asia.

This message was reiterated at a virtual event of the regional Tripartite members, represented by Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, Mr Vladimir Rakhmanin, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative, and Dr Budimir Plavsic, OIE Regional Representative for Europe.

They committed to establishing and supporting a regional coordination mechanism for the One Health approach to foster its implementation at both the executive leadership and technical expert levels.

As part of the regional coordination mechanism, the Tripartite will also establish a Regional One Health Partner Platform that will bring together policy-makers, partners and experts to provide strategic advice and foster the implementation of the One Health agenda in Europe and central Asia.

“The sudden outbreak and amplitude of the current COVID-19 pandemic, a human health crisis potentially caused by a virus passed down from animals, highlights the need for coordinated action across sectors to protect health and prevent food systems disruptions,” said Mr Rakhmanin.

Dr Kluge welcomed the formation of the Tripartite, saying: “The Tripartite has long recognized One Health as ‘the way of working’ to address various health issues originating at the animal-human-environment interface. WHO does not take its role and contribution to One Health lightly. However, despite years of collaboration within the Tripartite and with regional partners, we can do better.

“That is why we warmly welcome the formation of the One Health Coordination Mechanism for Europe and central Asia. The Mechanism will allow us to engage with Member States at a political and technical level, providing a platform to convene international and national stakeholders to jointly view needs and challenges through a One Health lens – and collectively mount a response to avoid duplicating efforts and wasting resources.”

Dr Plavsic said: “Today we want to send a strong message on our commitment to implement our joint One Health vision throughout the whole of Europe, in its 53 Member States, with their national health systems engaged in multisectoral partnerships and capable of preventing, detecting, containing and eliminating animal and public health risks with zoonotic potential and huge impact on food security and overall stability”. He added that the One Health mechanism, established today, will facilitate functional collaboration with other partners in Europe and increase capacities for prevention and control, not only for the current pandemics of COVID-19 and antimicrobial resistance (AMR), but also for those which will come, from spillover events at the animal-human-environment interface.

One Health is an integrated global initiative for ensuring a holistic approach to tackle health threats to animals, humans, plants and their shared environment.

The regional coordination mechanism was established to identify the regional One Health priorities, facilitate operationalization of activities in those areas, and support joint engagements and partnership at the animal-human-environment interface for coordinated support to countries and maximized country impact.

The involvement of all relevant decision-makers and experts of the Tripartite organizations, combined with the Partner Platform, will ensure a strong, high-level coordination of support and a high political profile across the One Health areas, combined with a dedicated, synchronized technical delivery in the countries.

Zoonotic diseases with pandemic potential, foodborne diseases, and endemic zoonosis, such as rabies and brucellosis, are causing many infections and deaths across the globe, while, at the same time, incurring serious socioeconomic costs.

The current pandemic, as well as the continuous emergence of health threats originating at the animal-human-environment interface, urges the 3 organizations to reassess, renew and increase assistance to countries to prevent, detect, assess and manage potential health threats, with the aim of protecting health, avoiding economic disruptions and sustaining livelihoods.

In the joint statement, the Tripartite in Europe and central Asia acknowledges the importance of close collaboration and communication among all sectors responsible for health, under the One Health approach. The approach is particularly relevant to address health issues associated with AMR, zoonotic diseases, food safety and health security.

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