Over 70% of infections in humans have either originated from domestic or wildlife
Challenge remains when it comes to implementation of all the decisions
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that a coordinated response is needed to tackle health emergencies, and failure to do that has a massive price to pay.
Yet, with 1,400 deaths this year, Bangladesh is grappling to fight off the outbreak of dengue, which is linked with so many departments from health to local government bodies to control.
Against this backdrop, Bangladesh on Sunday observed “International One Health Day”, two days after the global celebration on November 3, with the theme “Connecting Air, Land, and Water.” It highlights the importance of One Health collaboration to solve complex challenges that span local, regional, and international landscapes.
It is also to remind policy makers that the world and human society have become “more interdependent and interconnected and the problems that we are facing are too complex to be solved by the siloed approach of any discipline and sectors.”
Over 70% of infections in humans have either originated from domestic or wildlife.
“The idea of One Health approach was formally floated in 2004. It is now widely known as Manhattan Principle which called for recognizing the essential links between human, domestic animal and wildlife health for a safer planet for humans, animals and plants,” Prof Mahmudur Rahman, former director of Bangladesh’s disease monitoring agency IEDCR, told Dhaka Tribune.
“In Bangladesh, we also have a One Health, Bangladesh committee and a secretariat, but implementation challenges remain,” Prof Rahman, a founding member of the committee, said.
One Health was mainstreamed into global thinking at the 3rd International Ministerial Conference on Avian and Pandemic Influenza (IMCAPI) in New Delhi in December 2007.
“The World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nations Environment Program, and World Organization for Animal Health later launched the One Health joint plan of action to integrate systems and capacity to collectively better prevent, predict, detect, and respond to health threats,” Prof Rahman said.
“One Health is an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals and ecosystems. The approach mobilizes multiple sectors, disciplines and communities at varying levels of society to work together to foster well-being and tackle threats to health and ecosystems, while addressing the collective need for clean water, energy and air, safe and nutritious food, taking action on climate change, and contributing to sustainable development,” Dr Mohammad Mushtuq Husain, scientific secretary of One Health Bangladesh, told Dhaka Tribune.
One Health in Bangladesh
Bangladesh formed One Health, Bangladesh in 2008 which has grown into a vibrant One Health Civil Society group with around 1,500 members from a diverse array of disciplines and sectors.
In 2012, Bangladesh developed a National One Health Strategy and Action Plan, which was duly endorsed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
As laid down in the strategy, the Bangladesh government decided to establish an Inter-ministerial Steering Committee on One Health, One Health Technical Advisory Group and One Health Secretariat Coordination Committee.
At the same meeting in 2017, the government also formed the One Health Secretariat to institutionalize One Health within the government of Bangladesh.
One Health Bangladesh and One Health Secretariat jointly organize One Health Conference usually at an interval of two years. The last One Health Conference was held in June this year.
In 2022, the 4th Inter Ministerial Steering Committee Meeting on One Health decided to update the One Health Strategy and expand One Health Platform to the field level.
The secretariat comprises deputed officers from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, Ministry of Environment Forestry and Climate Change. It is currently led by the health ministry and is housed at the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research now, Dr Mushtuq Husain, also a founding member, said.
“Zoonotic disease surveillance, outbreak investigation and response to zoonotic diseases and human illness due to environmental hazards, research, capacity building – these are few areas where One Health is practiced by the government of Bangladesh.”
One Health Bangladesh and One Health Secretariat observed the day on Sunday through engaging professional, academia, government and development partners.
The theme of this year’s event, “Connecting Air, Land, and Water,” highlights the importance of One Health collaboration to solve complex challenges that span local, regional, and international landscapes.
Members of the committee said challenges remain when it comes to the implementation of all the decisions in Bangladesh.
“There is a lack of understanding or ownership among policy makers, particularly at the Directorate level of all ministries,” Prof Rahman said. The Directorate is the implementation authority of any policy undertaken by the relevant ministry.
“There’s no budgetary allocation for One Health activities. The engagement of the people in implementing One Health activities could not be ensured.”
Dr Mushtuq Husain said orientation of human health authorities is one of the challenges.
“They have very little or a wrong conception of Public Health and Pandemic preparedness. They mainly consider hospital and curative health services. Orientation of physicians, who serve in curative services, is also crucial. If policy makers are serious, and the demand is created among health professionals, One Health may take off,” he said.
Relevance of One Health
Following Covid -19, One Health is far more recognized at the global and national levels, as demonstrated by the formation of One Health Quadripartite (FAO/UNEP/WHO/WOAH), recognizing One Health as a core principle of Pandemic Fund. One Health was also adopted by influential political forums such as G-20.
“This year of climate extremes worldwide has taken thousands of lives, affected the health of people and animals, and devastated communities. We need new thinking on how to better prevent these impacts and build resilience, knowing that the world is in need of more,” Prof Rahman said.
“Antimicrobial resistance – the growing problem of bacteria, fungi and parasites no longer responding to the treatments we have for them – is a public health problem of global concern – that requires a rethink about how we raise and keep animals, treat people and animals, and manage the environment,” he said.
“Although the pandemic may very well be receding, the issues that brought it about have not been addressed. It’s only a matter of time before a similar threat arises,” he added.
Source: Dhaka Tribune.