OIE  (the World Organization for Animal Health) 

On April 22, 2016, the International School Network visited the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Regional Representation for Asia and the Pacific (RRAP) in Tokyo, Japan. We were welcomed and joined by the Regional Representative of the OIE RRAP, Dr. Hirofumi Kugita, Regional Project Coordinator Dr. Yooni Oh, Regional Veterinary Officer Dr. Yoko Aoyama, Regional Veterinary Officer Dr. Caitlin Holley, Regional Veterinary Officer Dr.Fania Dwi, Administrative Officer Ms. Takako Hasegawa, Accounting Officer Ms. Kanako Koike, Administrative Officer Ms. Izumi Goto, and Intern Mr. KahHui How (Jack). 

Introduction to the OIE 

The OIE is an intergovernmental organisation that works to support and promote animal disease control. The organization was created in 1924 and was initially known by the name of Office International des Epizooties (hence the abbreviated form, OIE). Since its establishment, the OIE has worked on unconditional duties to gather and retain all relevant information on animal diseases. As of 2016, the OIE holds 180 member-countries with the headquarters office located in Paris, France. There are five regional representations and eight sub-regional representations. The Director Leader of OIE is Dr. Monique Eloit. She has been the driving force of change, not only as the first women to have been elected in this position but also as implementer of the sixth strategic plan from 2016 to 2020. “The OIE is female dominated. At our organization, more than half of our staff members are women,” Dr. Kugita commented. 

 

The Four Pillars of the OIE 

With the primary aim of “improving animal health and welfare worldwide”, the OIE is operated under the four pillars: transparency, standards, expertise, and solidarity. All member countries are represented by the CVO (Chief Veterinary Officer) and the Ministry of the Animal Health Division is usually controlled by the CVOs. There is a general session between the CVOs, where representatives of the 180 member-countries gather to vote for certain decisions. According to Dr. Kugita, the voting process is “democratic”, since each country is given one vote. 

The first mission, “transparency of the world animal disease situation” focuses on collecting information of the global health situation through establishing numerous regional offices throughout the globe. There are currently 160 staff members in the OIE, combining the number of staffs working in the headquarters and the staffs at the regional offices. “There are no country offices, like the World Health Organization (WHO), but we have five regional offices and thirteen sub-regional offices,” Dr. Kugita commented. The office in Tokyo, the regional office for the Asia Pacific, (in which we visited for the interview) was the first regional office that was established two decades ago. 

 

To ensure “transparency”, there are three processes that the OIE undergoes: the early warning system, monitoring system, and acquiring information from the annual reports. The reports are provided through the World Animal Health Information System (WAHIS), an internet-based computer system that collects data regarding animal diseases real-time to inform the international community. Each nation holds the responsibility to report the OIE if a disease is detected and the monitoring system is able to confirm the given disease within a 24-hour-period, which allows the OIE to make immediate modifications.

The next mission, “setting standards for international trade of animals and animal products” is directed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Agreement. Out of the three safety ensurance indicated in this agreement, the OIE is in charge of setting standards for animal health. These standards include the quality of Veterinary Services and/or Aquatic Animal Health Services. The WTO SPS agreement is an inspection center and requires the OIE to follow codes and manuals, which is divided into two books: for terrestrial animals and for aquatic animals. Although OIE-set international standards have been recognized under this agreement, the agreement forbids the OIE to have direct power over trading animal products.

 

The fulfillment of the mission of “expertise: collection and dissemination of veterinary scientific information” is determined through intent research at two centres: the Reference Laboratory and the Collaborating Centre. The Reference Laboratory is the “world reference centre of expertise on designed pathogens or diseases” and the collaborating centre is the “world centre of research, expertise, standardization of techniques and dissemination of knowledge on a specialty”. There are 252 Reference Laboratories in the world, with thirteen of them located in Japan. On the other hand, there are 49 Collaborating Centres dealing with specific topics, including epidemiology, vet drugs, and animal welfare. Four Collaborating Centres are operating in Japan. The Scientific Network allows the OIE to obtain the help needed from exports. The Tokyo regional office that we visited was one of the collaborating systems. Mostly due the convenience of the location, the staff members of the OIE are also working closely with the professors at Tokyo University on these matters.

 

The last mission, “[to ensure] solidarity between countries to strengthen capacities worldwide” is made sure by having frequent meetings. For example, the OIE may organize events by sub-region. In recent years, the OIE has been working with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) through discussing the Global Framework for the progressive control of Transboundary Animal Diseases (GF-TADs) at sub-regional meetings (i.e. the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand, on April 31, 2015). 

The Works of the OIE RRAP and the “One Health” Concept 

When asked about OIE’s work in Japan, Dr. Kugita first explained that it is the regional office for Asia Pacific. Thus, they serve as the focal point of all of the 32 Asia Pacific Nations. Within the OIE office, there are nine members, who have come from all over the world. 

 

The “One Health” concept is “a global strategy for managing risks at the animal-human-ecosystems interface”. From the belief that pathogens could be controlled and prevented by the interface between humans, animals and the environment, the OIE is working with environmental sectors and experts. Under the “One Health” concept, the OIE, FAO, and the WHO has been collaborating through the tripartite agreement to “to address health risks at the
animal-human-ecosystems interfaces”. Dr. Kugita mentioned that there are three priorities among the three organizations: zoonotic influenzas, antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and global control of canine rabies. The OIE RRAP has been a major contributor to “One Health”, since in 2013, they launched the “OIE/JTF Project for Controlling Zoonoses in Asia under One Health Concept”. Dr. Kugita also shared that AMR is the “hottest topic” lately. Prior to the interview, there had been a Health Minister meeting for the discussion of a national action plan for AMR. In addition, rabies have been eliminated in Japan in 1956; however, the disease concerned not only dogs, but also humans. There is an estimate of approximately 50,000 to 70,000 human deaths caused by rabies. Dr. Kugita revealed that  he OIE is working to resolve the issue of rabies by the year 2030. 

The OIE RRAP has also been specifically working to find methods of curing the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), a zoonotic viral disease of cattle and swine. Japan had long been distant from FMD until a sudden FMD outbreak in Miyazaki Prefecture, back in 2010. This caused severe economic damage to Japanese farmers, as they were no longer able to make a living off their animals. Also, the consumers  were temporarily not able to buy any meat products from Miyagi prefecture. Following this, the Japanese government and the OIE member-countries worked together to prevent the further spread of the disease. Regarding the unexpected outbreak, Dr. Kugita commented, “Japan has been threatened  by neighboring countries. We must collaborate to eliminate this threat as much as possible.” 

 

Animal Health and Animal Welfare

Dr. Kugita also mentioned about concerns regarding aquatic animal health. He revealed that half of the production of aquatic animals are from aquaculture and that they are not “natural”. Because of this, the spread of aquaculture diseases has been a rising issue. At the moment, about 60% of aquaculture disease has been coming from China and therefore, he feels that the OIE must also “work more” in regards to this concern as well. 

 

From more than ten years ago, the OIE has been setting international standards on animal welfare. With the belief that “animal health is the key component of animal welfare”, they work to communicate that situational decisions regarding animal health must be “based on scientific evidence” and they must not be hindered by their emotions on certain situations. For this reason, Dr. Kugita stated that the key word is “scientific evidence” and that the documents addressing animal welfare only includes statements that are “common sense” to us. 

Reported by

        Kurumi Onishi

       

            

Participants

Madoka Nishina   12th Saint Maur International School

Kate Shimizu       12th Seisen International School 

Kurumi Onishi     11th Saint Maur International School

Karen Nishina       6th Saint Maur International School

What we learned/ Dr.’s message (By Kate)

 

Through the interview we were able to have a better understanding about the activities of OIE and their responsibility as the regional representative for Asia-pacific. We noticed the importance of international collaboration to trade information and scientific evidence to bring their decision making to the next level. Dr. Kugita continues to play an active role for managing risks involving animal, human and ecosystem interferences. He has taught us the importance of paying constant attention to the balance in the ecosystem, as our society exists upon this balance.

 

Living in the 21st century, technology and its innovation is developing very rapidly. It is an important evidence to show the potential of animal health and welfare to improve the future continuously. Dr.Kugita hopes for the development of countermeasures against animal diseases. He states that there still needs to be more attention on the risks of vaccines and antibiotics used on animals as there are both risks and benefit for each.