When the United Nations negotiators recently met in New York to track progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGSs), a number of side events to the High-Level Political Forum were organized to emphasize the crucial role of agriculture. I attended a couple of these events and took the opportunity to illustrate why investments in livestock will pay dividends for sustainable development, and more particularly for health.
Agriculture and Rural Development
The case for investing in pandemic preparedness is –or at least, should be - completely compelling. Few things could kill as many people as an influenza pandemic. Few threats can cause as much economic disruption as the contagion of fear triggered by a rapidly escalating epidemic. Reinforcing capabilities such as disease surveillance, diagnostic laboratories and infection control would be more effective and cost far less than spending money to contain outbreaks when they occur. Yet, so far, the global community has demonstrably not invested enough in preparedness. As a result, too many lives have been lost and too many livelihoods damaged, and the world remains scarily vulnerable.
Disease Outbreaks: A Constant Threat
The World Health Organization called for “heightened vigilance and strengthened surveillance efforts” last week to prevent and detect human transmission of a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza or ‘bird flu’. And while no human cases have been reported and WHO itself called the risk “relatively low,” we know the potential devastating impacts of diseases spread from animals to humans.
While the last half century has seen major advances in global health, new challenges are now threatening these hard-won health gains. One of these is antimicrobial resistance (AMR), or drug-resistant infections which can no longer be treated by antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs. AMR is on the increase globally both in humans and animals.
Today the world is celebrating “One Health Day.” Sometimes great ideas appear simple, even intuitive: the One Health concept was created to demonstrate that the health of people and animals are interconnected, and that these are in turn, inextricably bound to the health of the environment on which all life depends.
It really caught my attention when a friend of mine, an otherwise healthy chest physician in his late 40s, told me recently that he almost died of pneumonia. He had to be hospitalized twice, given an IV cocktail of antibiotics each time, only to recover about a month later, totally drained and weak. He told me that it was caused by Klebsiella pneumoniae -- a bacterial infection increasingly resistant to antibiotics and known to strike the immunocompromised, frail and alcoholics -- which he thought he must have gotten from a patient. He considered himself lucky to have survived.
Agriculture and nutrition share a common entry point: “food.” Food is a key outcome of agricultural activities, and, in turn, is a key input into good nutrition. Without agriculture there is little food or nutrition, but availability of food from agriculture doesn’t ensure good nutrition. Common sense would dictate a reinforcing relationship between the two fields of agriculture and nutrition but, in fact, there is often a significant disconnect.
On sait que l’épidémie d’Ebola a eu un impact dévastateur sur le plan de la santé, avec, à ce jour, 21 000 personnes infectées et 8 000 décédées. On connaît aussi ses effets sur l’économie de l’Afrique de l’Ouest : selon les dernières estimations de la Banque mondiale, la crise Ebola se chiffrera en 2015 à au moins 1,6 milliard de dollars de pertes de croissance pour la Guinée, le Libéria et la Sierra Leone.
Most people are aware of Ebola's devastating impact on human health. To date, over 22,800 people have been infected and 9,000 have died. Its effects on West Africa's economy have also been well-documented. According to recent World Bank estimates, Ebola will cause at least US$ 1.6 billion in lost economic growth in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2015.
Gerardo Bravo Garcia, Avian Flu Series, 2006, Oil & Gold Leaf on Canvas -
Courtesy of the World Bank Art Program
This blog is based on the World Development Report 2014: Risks and Opportunity - Managing Risk for Development, which discusses pandemics in Chapter 8 on global risks.
Pandemics do not start in a vacuum. A staggering 2.3 billion infections by zoonotic (animal-borne) pathogens afflict people in developing countries every year. Some pathogens become capable of easy human-to-human spread, like AIDS, flu, or severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The diseases harm health, nutrition, and food and income security. The poorest are hit the worst, as they tend to live with livestock or near wild animals in settings where animal disease incidence is high and public health standards are low.