Community-based animal health workers in the Horn of Africa
Community-based animal health worker (CAHW) services evolved in eastern Africa in the late 1980s, especially in more remote pastoralist areas where conventional veterinary services were limited or absent. Although controversial, CAHWs became recognised as a critical approach for rinderpest eradication in conflict-affected areas such as South Sudan and the Afar region of Ethiopia. During the early 2000s, the Feinstein International Center (FIC) of Tufts University worked with the African Union Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) to collect evidence on the impact of CAHWs and a range of issues affecting the quality and financial sustainability of services. This process contributed to institutional and policy support to CAHWs internationally and in some countries.
In 2013, the US Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance commissioned an evaluation of CAHWs in Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan. The report Community-based animal health workers in the Horn of Africa (2014, 84pp) by Tim Leyland, Raphael Lotira, Dawit Abebe, Gezu Bekele and Andy Catley from FIC and Vetwork UK describes the evaluation process and findings. Overall, CAHWs continued to be the preferred service provider at community level but in the face of weak veterinary governance at central levels. As imports of veterinary pharmaceuticals have increased through the private sector, there are growing concerns over national capacities to test new products and provide adequate quality control. Although there is great potential to use CAHWs in official disease surveillance, this potential remains unrealised due to weak linkages between government and CAHWs in remote areas.
A 4-page technical brief “Community-based animal health workers: where are we now?“, prepared by FIC, brings the main policy lessons from this evaluation.