Together for health

Reem Leila , Wednesday 19 Apr 2023

A new strategy aims to tackle health threats in a comprehensive manner, reports Reem Leila

Together for health
Together for health


Over the past decades, the world has been facing several challenges that require global health intervention. Among the problems is the spread of infectious diseases which emerge due to interaction between humans, animals and the environment or the ecosystem. The emergence of infectious diseases could be catastrophic as in the case of Covid-19, bird flu (H5N1), and swine flu (H1N1).

To contain animal-originating diseases which affect human health, the Ministry of Health and Population launched on 9 April the country’s One Health National Strategic Framework (2023-2027). The framework is a joint plan between the ministries of health, environment, agriculture, and the General Authority for Healthcare Accreditation and Regulation (GAHAR) in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The ministries of higher education and scientific research and local development along with the Egyptian Drug Authority and the National Food Safety Authority participated in preparing the strategy. During the launch, Minister of Health and Population Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar noted that One Health had become an urgent necessity at all national, regional and global levels to ensure the provision of a healthy, safe, and dignified life for humans, while preserving the health of animals and the environment.

According to Abdel-Ghaffar, the health system cannot alone deal with epidemics and pandemics. “All national and international concerned parties must jointly participate in activating the concept of One Health,” the minister said while stressing the need to continue participatory efforts to ensure the provision of a healthy life for all.  

During the 27th edition of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (COP27) which was held last year in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt endeavoured to provide all means and mechanisms of support to activate the concept of One Health in cooperation with all authorities concerned with health issues, Abdel-Ghaffar said.

The aim of the strategy is to create a framework to integrate systems and capacity to jointly prevent, predict, detect and respond to health threats, Ahmed Taha, head of GAHAR, told Al-Ahram Weekly. “This strategy is to enhance the health of humans, animals, plants and the environment as well,” Taha said.

Taha noted that One Health has been developed through a participatory process that strengthens collaboration, communication, capacity building, and coordination equally among all sectors responsible for addressing health concerns at the human-animal-plant-environment level.

During the event, Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation Al-Sayed Al-Qusseir pointed out that the ministry is currently working on preventing the emergence of animal diseases from entering Egypt through an early epidemiological surveillance system. “The ministry succeeded in tangibly controlling bird flu, thus stabilising the epidemiological situation of the disease,” Al-Qusseir said.

He noted that the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) announced that Egypt has officially adopted a system of facilities free of highly pathogenic avian influenza. This is in addition to a system of facilities free of bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis patients — the two diseases are common between humans and animals — in addition to combating rabies under the umbrella of a comprehensive control plan in cooperation with the ministries of health and population environment, local development and civil society organisations.

Al-Qusseir stressed the need for all concerned parties and common stakeholders to unite towards preparing various epidemiological studies, research and surveys for early detection of public health threats. “We should benefit from our cooperation with international organisations in using modern technology in this regard.”

There will be general directives to put an end to pesticides in agriculture. “The government will resort to biological means in combating plant insects. Also, the government will expand organic cultivation to limit the use of hormonal materials injected in fruit plants to increase their size and to ripen faster,” Al-Qusseir said.

The minister predicted that the percentage of diseases caused by plants would decrease drastically. “There are no recent studies on plant-origin diseases, but the percentage is quite high.”

According to a WHO press release, around 60 per cent of diseases affecting humans are of animal origin. Meanwhile, the cost of preventing epidemics via the One Health strategy costs $11.5 billion per year, thus making it notably less than the cost of responding to epidemics which is estimated at $30 billion annually.

Amr Qandil, deputy minister of health and population for preventive medicine, said that the preventive medicine sector would provide the necessary expertise for technical support for the strategy. “The Science, and Technology Development Fund will provide the necessary technical and financial support to implement the strategy directed at the welfare of people’s health,” Qandil said.

Qandil told the Weekly that since Egypt was one of the first countries to adopt the strategy, the government will evaluate the plan at the end of the four years to spot any weak points during implementation, as well as improve its strong points.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 13 April, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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