FAO strengthens Sierra Leone’s animal disease surveillance and Reporting System Capacity through Event Mobile Application (EMA-i)

The application enables frontline animal health officers to collect and transmit real-time geo-referenced information on animal diseases from the field using smartphones and or tablets.

Veterinary personnel using EMA-i, @FAO/Uzman Bah
Veterinary personnel using EMA-i, @FAO/Uzman Bah

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in close partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) of Sierra Leone, conducted from 3 to 5 March 2021 in Bo City  a training workshop on Event Mobile Application (EMA-i) to improve animal diseases real-time reporting, early warning and surveillance.

With funding support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under their Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) portfolio, the training targeted 47 livestock and veterinary services division personnel, wildlife officers  as well as Central Veterinary Laboratory personnel from the national and district level. The training aimed at improving animal diseases data collection and real-time reporting of animal disease outbreaks from the field to the national level by using EMA-i application.

EMA-ienables frontline animal health officers to collect and transmit real-time geo-referenced information on animal diseases from the field using smartphones and tablets. With this technology,  reports are sent in real-time to the Global Animal Disease Information System (EMPRES-i), a database developed by FAO where the information is safely stored and processed for country use. These field reports are also accessible through a mapping component of the EMA-i application, which allows users to visualize the location of disease events including epidemiological details. The disease events reports are also sent and shared in real-time with decisions makers.

Germain Bobo, the FAO ECTAD Country Team Leader in Sierra Leone, appreciates progress made by the country in disease surveillance and reporting. He stated that “good quality disease information and timely reporting is important to understand the disease situation, support decision-making, prevent potential disease incursion and respond quickly to disease outbreaks.” He emphasized that the training on the use of EMA-i technology in Sierra Leone was timely and that it will build the capacity of the livestock and veterinary services in animal diseases , reporting early warning and surveillance.

Before piloting this technology, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), had established an Integrated Animal Disease Surveillance and Reporting System (IADSR) in 2019 with FAO support. Using this system, District Livestock Officers successfully submit weekly reports on the occurrence of priority animal diseases and zoonoses via Google group to the MAF Epidemiology Unit. At this  Unit, data are collected, analyzed and disseminated via a weekly bulletin to various policymakers and other stakeholders for prompt action. The Director of MAF Livestock and Veterinary Services, Mr. Mohammed Alpha Bah, acknowledged that there were still challenges in getting real-time reporting and quality of data submitted to the Epidemiology Unit. He stated that with the piloting of this technology, “they will be able to address some of the current challenges with the system”. During the official opening ceremony for the training workshop, he also said that “We shall be able to make remarkable improvements in real-time disease reporting and communication between the national and district level, for example,  from weekly to real-time when disease outbreaks occur.”

The use of this technology in disease surveillance and reporting will be piloted in all the 15 districts of Sierra Leone for a period of six  months, before subsequent scale-up and adoption. FAO provided 25 internet enabled android tablets and two desktop computers to the Epidemiology Unit to facilitate the use of EMA-I to ensure the effective and more immediate action during the occurrence of a disease outbreak from detection, reporting and response.

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