The world is currently experiencing the devastating impacts of an unprecedented pandemic. The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) now infecting humans and causing COVID-19, originally emerged from animals. The exact nature of the conditions that led to the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 virus and transmission to humans are unknown, but the close contact between humans and wild animals from various origins moving through commercial wildlife supply chains for human consumption is strongly suspected to be a driving factor. Over 60% of existing human infectious diseases are zoonotic and at least 75% of emerging infectious diseases of humans (including Ebola, HIV and influenza) have animal origins.
Pathogen spillover from wildlife hosts to humans occurs at ever-increasing interfaces as humans encroach upon wildlife habitats. Markets trading and processing live animals or fresh meat from wildlife species represent a high-risk super-interface due to the large number of admixed species and their potential to shed and share viruses for extended periods prior to on-site slaughter or onward sale.
The risk of spillover events is continuously increasing due to augmented contact rates between humans, wildlife and livestock driven by anthropogenic land-use changes, increased access to formerly intact wild areas through roads and rail, and extraction of natural resources. The escalation from spillover to pandemic is heightened by globalization, an unrestrained growth based economy, and increased income and purchasing power in urban areas in many parts of the world.
The “One Health” concept that emphasizes the interdependence of human and animal health, and bound to the health of the ecosystems in which they exist, is envisaged as a holistic approach to understanding risks for human, animal (both domestic and wildlife) and ecosystem health. Consequently, the most effective approaches to protecting human health would involve controlling zoonotic pathogens at their animal source. These approaches would require the development and implementation of appropriate and coordinated policies at the human-animal ecosystem interface.
A “One Health” approach is highly relevant to the ASEAN, a region where wildlife consumption, livestock production as well as land use change, are prevalent issues. Amending policies on wildlife trade and consumption in addition to other policy reforms related to domestic livestock production and land use change will be essential to reducing the risks associated with future pandemics.
In the recent Declaration of the Special ASEAN Summit on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) on 14 April 2020, the Heads of State and Government of the ASEAN Member States (AMS) called for the strengthening of public health cooperation measures to contain the pandemic and protect the people by reinforcing national and regional epidemic preparedness and response strategies.
The 36th ASEAN Summit, 26 June 2020 underscored the importance of strengthening the capacity of ASEAN and existing regional mechanisms on public health and emergency response to optimise operations and enhance regional preparedness and health security. This is through regional and international coordination and cooperation with external partners and international organisations to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases and other public health emergencies. The Chairman, in his statement is also looking forward to cross-pillar and cross-sectoral collaboration within ASEAN and renewing of commitments for collaboration with relevant stakeholders to ensure a collective and coordinated regional response to curb the further transmission of COVID-19 and mitigate the multi-faceted impact of this pandemic.
In line with this, the ACB, in collaboration with Viet Nam through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the ASEAN Secretariat, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is convening this webinar via zoom to explore the issue from the One Health perspective with a focus on wildlife conservation and animal health linkage to zoonotic diseases spread and prevention as well as preparedness for the future. This cross-sectoral discussion will involve those working in the domains of public health, wildlife conservation, animal health and ecology in the region as we move forward with an understanding that an integrated response is needed to address this issue if we want to prevent another worldwide pandemic.
This webinar is taking off from the series of COVID-19-related online events in the ASEAN, among which are Biodiversity and Preventing Future Pandemics webinar jointly organised by the ACB and the ASEAN Secretariat on 20 May 2020; ASEAN Heritage Parks and COVID-19 Pandemic: Impacts, Responses and Recovery jointly organized by ACB and the AWGNCB focal point of Indonesia on 11 September 2020; and the Interactive Webinar Series on ASEAN Youth and COVID-19 led by the ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN Foundation, the ACB, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
- Inform the relevant ASEAN Sectoral Bodies and other relevant stakeholders on the issues and efforts relating to the links between animal and human health especially on the areas of livestock production, wildlife habitat protection, wildlife trade, zoonotic and emerging infectious diseases;
- Consider the feasibility of using the One Health approach in integrating ASEAN’s cross sectoral efforts in addressing COVID-19 and other possible future pandemics 3. Inform the public on related issues such as wildlife trafficking and managing risks at the human – animal – ecosystem interface by featuring the efforts of ASEAN and AMS as well as organisations working in the region.
- WATCH WEBINAR: Link to VIDEO