The pastoralists in Ethiopia's Somali region face many dangers: drought, malnutrition and various diseases threaten both humans and their livestock. In this project, Jigjiga University and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) are developing a communication system that collects information from remote areas via mobile phone and warns of disease outbreaks. During dry periods, the system indicates where good grazing areas are.
The project uses a «One Health» approach to combine aspects of human, animal and environmental health. Shepherds can send information about sick people and animals to a One Health office, where local experts decide if a health worker needs to travel to the site or if a telephone call can solve the problem.
Since livestock farmers depend on usable pastures, they traditionally send out so-called “Sahan-Scouts” who collect information about pastures, the spread of animal diseases and possible conflicts. Traditional knowledge from the Sahan system is also included in the information system. Together with modern satellite data, maps will be developed to guide pastoralists to accessible grazing areas.
Authorities, livestock farmers and shepherds can get up-to-date and reliable information from this system in order to respond better to the challenges they face. Because the system helps organize health measures for people and animals more quickly, diseases can be better detected in a timely manner, saving lives and reducing costs. The project reduces pressure on often degraded pastures and contributes to their regeneration. This reduces the effects of droughts that are becoming more frequent due to climate change. All these factors increase the productivity and stability of livestock farming and reduce the need for food aid for pastoralists, who are severely affected by poverty.
Direct beneficiaries include 8,000 female livestock farmers who gain access to personal health care. 7,000 additional livestock farmers benefit from medical treatment for their animals. 45 municipal health workers and 30 local authority representatives receive educational training.
Objectives of current project phase
Establish the integrated information system alongside a One Health office and providing educational training to livestock farmers.
Provide evidence of improved and cheaper health care for the population and its farm animals.
Extend the system to about 4.4 million women from the entire Ethiopian Somali Region (SRS), contingent on the project’s success.
Local authorities have already extended their support of the project. The synergy effects of the system are expected to save costs, increasing the likelihood that local authorities will assist in long-term implementation and expansion.
The project is part of the larger Jigjiga One Health Initiative that will strengthen the University of Jigjiga as a centre of excellence. This will ensure long-term improvements in training future interdisciplinary-oriented specialists.
Project planning involved the local community from the outset. Community involvement will continue throughout the project to ensure the project’s relevance for the population and encourage local participation and responsibility.
New partnership with great innovative potential
Since the start of the year, Biovision has had a new project partner: the Swiss Tropical and Public-Health Institute (Swiss TPH). Simon Gottwalt, molecular biologist and responsible for Biovision's animal and human health projects, presents this new «One Health» project in Ethiopia and reveals in this interview the potential of this partnership.