News / Africa

Pastoralists Played Major Role in Ending Rinderpest

Afar community animal health worker describing the appearance and characteristics of rinderpest in cattle. (Credit: Jeffrey Mariner)
Afar community animal health worker describing the appearance and characteristics of rinderpest in cattle. (Credit: Jeffrey Mariner)

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
In June 2011, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization officially declared that the deadly animal disease rinderpest had been eradicated. The disease devastated livestock and lingered in Africa long after being eliminated in developed countries. But while a vaccine put a halt to rinderpest, eradication would not have occurred nearly as quickly without the help of nomadic herders.



Rinderpest was the first animal disease to be eliminated globally -- and only the second disease overall to be eradicated after smallpox.

“It’s a very severe disease. The name translated into English is cattle plague. The way that it actually appears is as a diarrheal disease where the animals essentially dehydrate and die in about the course of a week. And it can cause up to 90 percent death loss in herds,” said Jeffrey Mariner, a research scientist at International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi and inventor of the temperature-stable rinderpest vaccine.

Rinderpest had been around for centuries before Europeans inadvertently brought it Africa in 1887. Over the next decade it spread across much of the continent, causing many deaths from starvation in Ethiopia.

While there were several early vaccines, the key vaccine was developed in 1960 by Walter Plowright, who received the World Food Prize for his work.

Mariner said, “It was a phenomenal vaccine. It protected against all types of rinderpest. It protected for life for the animals with a single immunization. There was never any recorded adverse reaction. And that actually spurred a lot of attempts to eradicate the disease and one called JP15, which ultimately almost succeeded, but they just stopped a few years too soon.”

The only problem with the vaccine was that it had to be kept cold before use. Mariner and his colleagues began working on the heat stability of the vaccine in the late 80’s and solved the problem by 1990.

“We took that Plowright vaccine, that very good vaccine, whose only shortcoming was that it needed to be refrigerated, and we made it so it didn’t need refrigeration. It could be used in the field much more flexibly, and that allowed us to set up vaccination programs for places like South Sudan and these very remote areas in eastern Africa,” he said.

But Mariner and others realized it would take more than veterinary professionals to immunize all the animals at risk. So they went to local pastoralist communities. Mariner says formal government institutions did not reach remote rural areas.

“What we found when we went to work in those areas was that they had a very well-developed knowledge of animal health. They had names for all the major diseases, could describe them. They knew a lot about treatments, which medicines to use for which disease. There might be a lack of information on correct dosage and things. So we engaged in a process of learning from them about their knowledge systems - and then integrating certain Western medical concepts and training them how to vaccinate and how to deliver antibiotics, as well, for other problems,” he said.

He said since they couldn’t read or write, all instruction was done orally.

“What was very rewarding is just to see how much interest, you know, this was the most exciting thing that they could learn about for them because they are cattle-dependent people. So they paid very close attention. Mixing up a vaccine and following all the rules for its use, they were very much motivated to do that well and were very good students,” said Mariner.

So good, that they did just as well or better than those from the veterinary services.

“They were essentially responsible for locating and eradicating the final outbreaks of rinderpest in East Africa. And it couldn’t have been done without them,” he said.

The same concept may be used to help eradicate what’s called small ruminant plague, which is closely related to rinderpest. However, it affects sheep and goats. Mariner says the vaccine for the plague has now been made so it too no longer needs refrigeration. What’s more, the pastoralist model may also be applied to rabies.

He said the success of the rinderpest eradication effort proved that African communities are more than able to take on such jobs.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid