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Using smartphones to fight animal diseases in the United Republic of Tanzania

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Using smartphones to fight animal diseases in the United Republic of Tanzania

For a country to have an effective and efficient animal disease epidemio-surveillance system, all actors, especially field workers, must play their part.

ROME, Italy, October 7, 2021 / APO Group / –

In the United Republic of Tanzania, rapid notification of animal diseases in the field is a major challenge due to weak veterinary infrastructure and lack of human resources. The country has adopted technology developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to improve the national animal disease reporting system.

The mobile event application (EMA-i) is a reporting tool to collect data and facilitate real-time disease reporting to support the capacities of veterinary services in disease surveillance in the field.

FAO, through its Emergency Center for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is involved nationally, regionally and globally in the development of early warning systems for diseases. Through a series of workshops and training sessions, it has built capacity and promoted the use of EMA-i to access and use relevant information available in existing surveillance systems for priority zoonoses and animal diseases. cross-border.

“For a country to have an effective and efficient epidemiological surveillance system for animal diseases, all actors, especially field workers, must play their part to ensure that information on animal diseases is effectively collected on the basis of signs and symptoms observed and reported in a timely manner, “according to the Director of Veterinary Services of the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries (MoLF) of the United Republic of Tanzania, Dr Hezron Nonga.

Deployment of EMA-i in the United Republic of Tanzania

The main objective is to create a network of EMA-i users equipped with smartphones to help the country better prevent, detect and respond to animal disease threats in a more cost-effective manner.

FAO, in collaboration with MoLF, piloted the use of EMA-i in 2017. During the pilot phase, FAO trained 13 EMA-i users from MoLF and the Tanzania Veterinary Laboratory Agency, which was followed by further training of 23 users from 20 districts. across the country and three zonal veterinary centers.

In 2018, FAO supported the extension of the tool to 50 additional districts, seven zonal veterinary centers, three wildlife institutions, two veterinary laboratory centers and the Sokoine University of Agriculture, where a total of 59 users were equipped with smartphones to use the application.

In collaboration with MoLF, FAO conducted two further training phases in November 2019 and October 2020, deploying EMA-i in 19 and 25 other districts respectively.

Use of the EMA-i app in the United Republic of Tanzania has demonstrated major improvements in disease notification and communication between districts and the central level. According to Cainan Kiswaga, a field manager trained in the use of EMA-i: “Before the introduction of EMA-i, it took more than seven days for animal disease reports from the lower level to reach. the district level for processing.

Overall, the four successful phases conducted since 2017 have resulted in the current use of EMA-i in 115 districts (around 62% of districts), with 114 field workers trained, which has significantly increased the number reports received from field agents.

FAO ECTAD’s goal is to ensure the use of EMA-i in 80 percent of the districts, in line with the planned targets for the country. To support its implementation, FAO supported MoLF with over 100 smartphones with internet connectivity that were provided to trained field workers. In Tanzania, internet access can be limited, especially outside urban centers, while telephone networks have good coverage over larger areas with fast connection from the field.

EMA-i during the COVID-19 era

During the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, given the importance of reported health information in the field (e.g. epidemics) and optimized surveillance systems based on risk assessment and mapping of priority zoonotic diseases at country level, FAO ECTAD in East Africa, with support from FAO Headquarters, has implemented a series of trainings for veterinary service personnel in the United Republic of Tanzania . These trainings were aimed at building capacity and further facilitating the exchange of information on animal disease reporting between all stakeholders, from breeders to veterinary chiefs.

Following COVID-19 travel restrictions and limitations on face-to-face meetings, trainings were organized and delivered virtually in a series of online webinars. In the United Republic of Tanzania, FAO led phase four of the implementation of EMA-i and strengthened the capacities of 25 field agents from 25 districts. The training of veterinary officers of the new districts was carried out by national trainers with FAO on site and virtual support from FAO headquarters. MoLF Information, Communication and Technology Officer Baltazary Kibola said at the opening ceremony: “Information technology is the key to improving surveillance and reporting. notification of animal diseases. EMA-i has simplified and improved the surveillance and early warning of animal disease outbreaks in Tanzania.

The path to follow

Since its implementation, a total of 9,273 disease events have been reported via EMA-i from June 2017 to August 2021 in the districts of the United Republic of Tanzania where the tool has been deployed, compared to the 283 events reported across the country from December 2016. to November 2017. By strengthening surveillance and early warning capacities and improving communication among stakeholders, EMA-i enhanced early warning of the onset of animal diseases at the national level.

Thanks to the EMA-i application, a fast, real-time, efficient and confidential communication channel is guaranteed, allowing more immediate and efficient communication during an epidemic. Therefore, FAO plans to expand the use of this tool nationwide in the United Republic of Tanzania to strengthen global capacities in disease notification, surveillance and early warning.

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