The participation of civil society organisations in veterinary service delivery is imperative for a huge country such as Nigeria
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has become a global threat to public and animal health as well as the environment. This necessitated the tripartite to develop the Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance.
Member countries were also encouraged to develop national action plans. Nigeria developed the National Action Plan for Antimicrobial Resistance (2017–2022) and the plan is currently being implemented.
Nigeria has a land mass of 923,768 square kilometres and a population of about 213 million. The governance structure is a three tiered system — federal, state and local government levels.
Due to several factors such as climate change, intensive animal production and urbanisation among others, the interaction between animals, humans and their shared environment has increased. Thus, there is a high disease burden in both humans and animals and several of the conditions are zoonotic.
A large proportion of the people and livestock farmers live in rural areas where healthcare service delivery is minimal and accessing health care services (laboratory diagnostic service, treatment, inputs) is a challenge.
Invariably, drugs are bought and administered without recourse to a healthcare professional. In animal production, the use of antimicrobials for growth promotion, coupled with lack of observance of withdrawal periods are also factors that drive AMR.
Monique Eloit, the director-general of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), says that to contain AMR:
We sectors and countries all share responsibility in the development of antimicrobial resistance. It is by addressing this global threat together that we will manage to protect human and animal health, and therefore, our future.
This means all stakeholders including civil society organisations (CSO) have a role to play in mitigating the scourge of AMR. Thus, CSOs can work in collaboration with government and other stakeholders to contain AMR even with increased food production and also to preserve the much-needed antimicrobials for now and for the future.
In Nigeria, there is paucity of trained animal healthcare professionals in the rural areas where most of the small holder farmers and producers live and access to quality healthcare service delivery is deficient.
The CSOs, which are non-state, not-for-profit organisations thereby fill the gap of weaknesses and take up the challenge of opportunities of government services that are provided to the public especially those in the rural areas.
There are fewer international, national and local CSOs within the animal health (AH) sector in Nigeria, compared to the public health sector.
Experiences from Nigeria
CSOs therefore collaborate with government towards sensitisation of stakeholders, development and shaping of policies, provision of healthcare services, good governance, training of intermediate and lower level personnel among other activities. The CSOs are a link between government and beneficiaries of services.
In the Nigeria context, with a focus on AH, CSOs are working with the government in the following areas to contain AMR.
The threat of AMR is often times not easy to communicate due to the fact that there is low risk perception and the negative impact is not felt immediately in most cases.
Consequently, CSOs have collaborated with the implementing agencies such as the department of Veterinary and Pest Control Services of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Federal Ministry of Environment to sensitise the public through rallies and walks, talks on television and radio programmes as well as advocacy visits to policymakers during the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week.
During the 2019 WAAW, a special session was held at which various top-level officials in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and the national assembly took the AMR Guardian pledge. In the animal health sector, visits to livestock / live bird / fish markets, abattoirs and schools were conducted.
The CSOs have conducted retrospective studies and situational analysis to bring out data in support of development of new policies and legislation. This is crucial in light of the paucity of data for AMR especially within AH.
One such policy is prohibition of the use of antimicrobials for growth promotion in food producing animals. Presentations have been made at various fora on the availability and use of alternatives to antimicrobials and the outcomes in agriculture.
Services provided by CSOs include provision of thermos-stable Newcastle vaccines produced by the National Veterinary Research Institute to farmers in rural areas for use in scavenging chickens, subsidised animal drugs from manufacturers to farmers thereby removing the middlemen and ensuring availability of good quality products.
There have been training sessions of community AH workers in a collaboration between state governments, the Veterinary Council of Nigeria and CSOs.
This is to build the capacity of middle and lower level manpower and thus bridge the gap in the availability of animal health care personnel in the rural areas.
There are also discussions ongoing about institution of the sanitary mandate programme in the PPP setting. Some CSOs have trained producers in the aspects of biosecurity, record keeping and good management practices.
Many CSOs have hosted webinars for sharing of information and knowledge to different stakeholders sometimes in the One Health approach.
CSOs are well-placed to source and mobilise funds from donors for mitigation of the AMR threat as there is less bureaucracy to navigate. Also, in most cases, especially for the national / local CSOs which are smaller organisations, such funds and the deployment of the resources can be better tracked.
For CSOs to be effective, they must be responsive, transparent, accountable and align themselves with the overall goals of the government concerning the sector of interest.
This will enable them to gain the trust and cooperation of the government and the people they seek to serve.
Some of the challenges of CSO operations are the issue of sustainability, retention of skilled manpower especially when funding wanes and dependency on donor funding. Nonetheless, participation of CSOs in veterinary service delivery is imperative for a huge country such as Nigeria.
Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth
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