PAHO promotes collaboration between Colombia and Venezuela, outlines plan to make Americas free of foot-and-mouth disease

Colombian and Venezuelan authorities have agreed to collaborate in strengthening surveillance against foot-and-mouth disease at their borders

Río de Janeiro, 28 April 2023 (PANAFTOSA- PAHO) – Colombian and Venezuelan authorities have agreed to collaborate in strengthening surveillance against foot-and-mouth disease at their borders, in a joint effort to ensure that Venezuela is certified as free of the disease by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Venezuela will be last country in the region to obtain this recognition.

The signing of the agreement took place at a meeting in Rio de Janeiro organized by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) through its Pan American Center for Foot and Mouth Disease and Veterinary Public Health (PANAFTOSA), which coordinates efforts in the region to eradicate foot and mouth disease.

Edilberto Brito Sierra, deputy manager of Animal Protection of the Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA), said that the signing of the document "is a great step forward in relations with Venezuela", since "it allows us to carry out joint actions in the areas that border both countries.”

"Becoming the first continent free of foot-and-mouth disease is a commitment for the whole of the Americas," stressed Brito Sierra. “The only country missing is Venezuela, so all countries in the region have a vested interest in its certification as it will have health, commercial and social benefits for the entire continent.”

During the meeting, Venezuela presented its Foot and Mouth Disease Program (PROFA), as well as its progress with animal vaccination.

"This is a historic day," said Wilmer Alcázar, director of Animal Health at Venezuela's National Institute of Integral Agricultural Health (INSAI). "PANAFTOSA has consistently worked towards Venezuela and Colombia reaching an agreement to achieve FMD-free status through vaccination and it is essential that we strengthen our first line of defense for animal health, which are the borders,” he said.

"Hand in hand with PANAFTOSA, we can achieve the milestone of a continent free of foot-and-mouth disease,” he added.

The Director of PANAFTOSA, Ottorino Cosivi, remarked that the region is "close to eradicating the disease. We must combine efforts and experience to achieve this regional public good". For Cosivi, the plan to be implemented in Venezuela is "an agreement between the countries, based on mutual trust" that "helps us to find a way, after more than 70 years of PANAFTOSA's history, to see the Americas free of foot-and-mouth disease".

Countries join efforts to eradicate foot-and-mouth disease in the region

Representatives of the public-private sectors of Brazil, Paraguay, Venezuela, Colombia and international institutions that make up the Regional Follow-up Commission for the National Plan for the Eradication of Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Venezuela also met this Friday, in a meeting coordinated by  PANAFTOSA, to approve the work plan to be carried out in the South American country as the last step to make the entire region of the Americas free of the disease.

"Supporting the FMD eradication project in the Americas is a historic event,” said Eduardo de Azevedo Pedrosa Cunha, director of the Department of Animal Health of Brazil’s Ministry of Livestock Agriculture and Supply (MAPA). "It is a strategic step and a win for all the countries bordering Venezuela, including Brazil, which is in a crucial moment in its national plan as it withdraws the vaccine and strengthens surveillance actions.”

For Carlos Ramón Ramírez Arévalos, director of Epidemiology of the National Animal Health and Quality Service (Senacsa) of Paraguay, "we are in the last stage of the Hemispheric Program for the Eradication of Foot and Mouth Disease 2021-2025. This is a very important step for the region and for countries that export food to the world.

At the meeting, the Venezuelan Foundation for Animal Health Services (Funvessa) was introduced. The Foundation was created in 2020 and is comprised of livestock producers, members of the National Federation of Venezuelan Cattlemen (Fedenaga), the Venezuelan Meat Council (Convecar) and the National Confederation of Farmers and Cattlemen of Venezuela (Confagan).

In 2022, Venezuela's National Institute for Integral Agricultural Health (INSAI) and Funvessa signed a collaboration agreement to work together to certify Venezuela as free of foot-and-mouth disease.

PAHO Actions in Venezuela

PAHO, through PANAFTOSA, provides ongoing technical cooperation to Venezuela in all actions necessary to achieve the eradication of foot and mouth disease in the country.

In 2019, PANAFTOSA, together with INSAI, provided technical assistance for the reevaluation of standards of the National Program for the Prevention, Control and Eradication of Foot and Mouth Disease. In 2022, new strategies were established to gradually advance in the eradication of the disease.

In response to the member countries of the South American Commission for the Control of Foot and Mouth Disease (COSALFA), PANAFTOSA coordinates the Follow-up Commission of the National Plan for the Eradication of Foot and Mouth Disease in Venezuela, created with the support of INSAI.

The objective of the Commission is to support and guide the activities carried out within the National FMD Eradication Plan and the need to strengthen the immunization program in the country to prevent viral transmission and increase surveillance to achieve free status with vaccination by 2025.