Paris, 24 May 2015 - "The Pan American Health Organization has long recognized the importance of the animal health sector to the health and well-being of the people of the Americas. Human and animal health share many common challenges as well as many common opportunities." With these words, Dr Carissa F. Etienne, Director, PAHO, opened the proceeding, as Guest of Honor, of 83rd General Session of the World Assembly of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Delegates held in Paris from 24 to 29 May 2015.
This event brought together around 900 participants representing the 180 OIE Member Countries, numerous international, intergovernmental, regional and national organizations. Dr Etienne highlighted the various areas of shared interest between animal health and public health, from food security and safety to antimicrobial resistance and emerging and neglected zoonotic diseases. She also reminded the audience that "It was SARS—an emerging zoonotic disease—that shaped the new International Health Regulations of 2005. Today, Ebola is shaping the new world order for global health security."
In addition to Dr Etienne, PAHO delegation to the 83rd General Session included Dr Ottorino Cosivi, Director of the Pan American Foot-and-Mouth Disease Center (PANAFTOSA) and Dr Manuel Sanchez Vazquez, Epidemiologist, Panaftosa.
On 24 May, Dr Etienne met with Ms Katia Abreu, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply of Brazil (MAPA) along with a delegation of political leaders from various Brazilian States and staff of the Ministry. Collaboration on food safety and support to Venezuela's FMD elimination were part of the discussion.
On 23 May, Dr Etienne met with Dr Bernard Vallat, Director General OIE, who underscored the privileged and unique perspective of PAHO for having encompassed animal health as part of its public health mandate, recognizing the role of Panaftosa in the elimination of FMD in the Region of the Americas. This has provides for an unprecedented increase of production and supply of meat, milk and other animal products for national consumption in Latin America, along with an exportable surplus representing one of the most important sources of income of foreign currency, with positive impact on the socio-economic development of the Countries.
The Region of the Americas has a longstanding tradition of such coordination with Panaftosa, as example. Last year, the World Assembly established Panaftosa as an OIE Collaborating Center on Veterinary Public Health adding to the Center's long-established function as an OIE Reference Laboratory for Foot and Mouth Disease. The current situation of absence of FMD cases reported is a historic achievement of the livestock breeders and the veterinary services of the countries of the Americas and for Panaftosa, as well as for PAHO and OIE as organizations. Panaftosa has been coordinating a regional action plan to eliminate human rabies transmitted by dogs in the Americas. Since implementation of the plan began in 1983, the number of human cases has dropped 95%, along with a 98% decline of rabies cases in dogs. PAHO has also progressively broadened Panaftosa's mandates to include other health priorities such as emerging and neglected zoonotic and foodborne diseases and food safety.
Address by the Director of the PAHO/WHO, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, Sunday 24 May 2015, at the Opening session of the 83rd General Session of the World Assembly of Delegates of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE)