SANTIAGO, Chile, June 28 (UPI) -- Latin America remains high on the list of regions where recurring foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks are upsetting the best-laid plans for sustained economic development.
Before the latest political crisis over Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo's ouster from office through an impeachment vote rushed through the National Congress, the impoverished landlocked country was hit by foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks that cost tens of millions of dollars in lost livestock and missed exports.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and World Organization for Animal Health say they are pooling resources to eradicate foot-and-mouth disease.
As before, however, they warn that success will depend on countries coordinating actions and not missing targets.
The global foot-and-mouth disease threat is among topics being discussed at an international meeting in Bangkok supported by Thailand's Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. More than 100 countries are attending the talks.
Collective action is needed to better control foot-and-mouth disease where it is a major burden for millions of farmers, pastoralists and commercial operators, conference participants said.
"Recent FMD outbreaks around the globe demonstrate that animal diseases have no boundaries, can have a devastating impact and require a global response," said Hiroyuki Konuma, the FAO regional representative for Asia and the Pacific.
Foot-and-mouth disease isn't a direct threat to human health but lost trade opportunities for affected countries are a global economic burden and a hindrance on human development.
For the poorest farmers who often depend on just a few animals, foot-and-mouth disease means hunger and economic ruin when it strikes and cuts off people's only source of income and protein.
OIE Director General Bernard Vallat said the new coordinated effort aims to "allow foot-and-mouth disease control worldwide through the strengthening of veterinary services responsible for animal disease control."
FAO's chief veterinary officer Dr. Juan Lubroth said a successful eradication would involve a joint effort by scientists, governments, donors, veterinarians and farmers.
The two organizations say their strategy involves the use of two tools, one of which evaluates national veterinary services with the aim of bringing them into compliance with OIE standards.
The other tool devised by the FAO guides countries through a series of incremental steps to better manage foot-and-mouth disease risks, beginning with active surveillance to establish what types of foot-and-mouth disease virus strains are circulating in the country and neighboring areas.
FAO claims the strategy contributes considerably to poverty reduction by increasing trade opportunities and contributing to and protecting the daily incomes of the 1 billion poor farmers worldwide who depend on livestock.
Foot-and-mouth disease is seldom fatal but the disease can cause high mortality in newborn and young animals, weight loss, reduced milk yields and lower fertility.
Annual global foot-and-mouth disease costs in terms of production losses and the need for prevention by vaccination has been estimated to be approximately $5 billion.
A foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Britain in 2001 cost about $30 billion.