The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that as Ghana joints the rest of the world to celebrate the World Rabies Day 2019, attention must be focused on preventing the spread of rabies.
The Assistant Director-General and FAO Representative to Ghana, Dr Abebe Haile-Gabriel, who sounded the warning, said rabies was 99.9 percent fatal, “but it is also 100 percent preventable.”
He stated that the only way to prevent the spread of rabies was to vaccinate dogs against the disease and stops its transmission to people.
World Rabies Day
Dr Haile-Gabriel stated this in Accra last Wednesday at a joint press conference to herald the celebration of World Rabies Day 2019.
This year's World Rabies Day on the theme, "vaccinate to eliminate" is scheduled to take place in Sunyani in the Bono Region on September 28, 2019.
Dr Haile-Gabriel said with a five-year continuous vaccination campaign programme and with a vaccination coverage of 70 per cent throughout the country, rabies could be eliminated in the country by 2030.
He lauded Ghana for embarking on an inter-ministerial approach to “coordinate, collaborate and communicate” for the prevention and control of rabies in the country at the national, regional, district and community levels.
The ministries that are working together to fight the disease are the Ministry of Food and Agriculture; the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation.
Dr Haile-Gabriel pledged the FAO’s commitment to the implementation of the World Health Organisation (WHO)-World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)-FAO and Global
Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) Global Framework for the Elimination of Dog-mediated human rabies.
With its five pillars (socio-cultural, technical, organisation, political and resources), the strategic vision is zero human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030 in all participating countries including Ghana.
“As we all depart from this wonderful celebration, let us all be reminded of our duties and responsibilities to the prevention and control of Rabies in the country.
“At this juncture, it should be reminded that there is an utmost need for building strong partnerships under the common One Health (OH) platform as well as vigorously mobilise funds to support the fight against RABIES,” Dr Haile-Gabriel.
Quoting the WHO, the Director of Disease Control of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) Dr Franklin Asiedu-Bekoe said the most cost-effective strategy for preventing rabies in people was to eliminate rabies in dogs through vaccination.
He said vaccinating 70 percent of dog population would prevent 99 percent human infections, noting with concern that with the low dog vaccination in the country,
“Ghana is at the verge of losing the battle of zero-tolerance for rabies.”
He said there was a need for the country to pay attention to primary prevention and all other measures of prevention to stay on track in the fight against the deadly disease.
Dr Asiedu-Bekoe stated that as the country joined the global community to celebrate the World Rabies Day, there was the need for responsible dog ownership.
“Every dog must be owned and owners must ensure their dogs are vaccinated annually,” he insisted, asking the leadership of the Veterinary Services Directorate (VSD) and the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the Ministry of Health to ensure access and availability of the anti-rabies vaccine.
Call to action
In a speech read on his behalf, the Director-General of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) Mr Eric Nana Agyemang-Prempeh said the theme was a call to action a rigorous nation-wide effort targeted at wiping out rabies from the society to protect and save lives.
He said the effort must involve all sectors with the will to collaborate and cooperate and appealed to all ministries, departments and agencies, development partners and the general public to support the national effort at eliminating rabies by the year 2030.
For his part, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative for Ghana Dr Owen Kaluwa, said the quest to prevent human rabies and rabies-related deaths presented a fine opportunity to strengthen collaborations between human and animal health sectors in the spirit of One Health.
He stated that over the past year, the WHO and partners had been supporting the government of Ghana in the development of a One Health policy for the country, which sought to promote and institutionalise multi-sectoral collaborations between key sector ministries, NGOs and research institutions on issues that had direct impact on health at the human-animal-environment interface.
The Director of the Veterinary Service Directorate Dr Hayford Asiedu-Baah described rabies as a reemerging and serious public health issue that needed immediate attention.
He said it could be prevented through vaccination and called for responsible pet ownership to reduce the spread of the disease.
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