The Quadripartite Alliance launches its One Health Joint Plan of Action
Panelists and audience at the launch of the Joint Action Plan at Berlin’s Natural History Museum © GIZ
How can countries plan, implement and monitor an integrated approach to maintaining and enhancing human and animal health and a healthy planet?
On the evening of 18th October 2022, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Museum für Naturkunde and the Foundation Healthy Planet-Healthy People jointly hosted this launching event. Seated in the atmospheric dinosaur hall of Berlin’s Museum für Naturkunde, representatives of the German government, civil society and academia followed a presentation of the Joint Action Plan by members of the Quadripartite Alliance and its OH High Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP).
Constanze Riedle, Head of Programme, ‘Support to the International Alliance against Health Risks in Wildlife Trade’, GIZ, moderated the event. Panelists included representatives of the four quadripartite UN organisations, namely Chadia Wannous, One Health Global Coordinator for the World Organisation of Animal Health (WOAH); Francesco Branca, Director, Nutrition and Food Safety for the World Health Organisation (WHO); Keith Sumption, Chief Veterinary Officer for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Wondwosen Asnake Kibret, Policy and Partnerships Coordinator, Europe Office for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); as well as Thomas C. Mettenleiter, President of the German Federal Research Institute for Animal Health who is also Co-Chair of the Quadripartite’s One Health High Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP).
Our biodiversity is under threat
In her opening address Svenja Schulze, Germany’s Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development reminded the audience that our ecosystem’s foundations are at stake: ‘It is no secret that our biodiversity is under threat. Every four seconds an area of forest the size of a football field is lost to logging,’ she said. ‘Every day, up to 150 plants and animal species disappear from the Earth. We need these ecosystems for our food security and for our health, for safe drinking water, fertile soils, clean air and protection of the global climate.’
This is where One Health comes in, she said, noting that the approach aims to achieve an equilibrium between the health of humans, animals and the environment and to prevent global health threats. Referring to the action plan, the minister said that cross disciplinary thinking and preventive action is necessary in order to strengthen the health system, preventing anti-microbial resistance and ensure global food safety.
It is very important to me that this plan is very, very concrete. For instance, the Action Plan aims to reduce risk of zoonotic diseases that are transferred from animals to humans. By raising awareness, restricting contact with wild animals and setting up an early warning system we can prevent outbreaks more effectively and respond more quickly when they happen.Svenja Schulze
Minister Schulze concluded by saying that the BMZ is actively lobbying for the One Health approach to be mainstreamed in global policies and practices, adding that the German government is contributing close 4 million EUR to supporting the plan’s implementation.
Liberia shows how it can be done
Wilhelmina S. Jallah, Liberia’s Minister of Health, delivered a keynote address, emphasising that the Liberian government regards One Health as essential orientation for its health- and environment-related policies and has established a coordination mechanism for all involved ministries at its public health institute. She mentioned that in Liberia, the One Health coordination platform was launched in June 2017 in order to ‘productively facilitate cross sector collaboration to address public health issues that cannot be solved by a single sector alone.’
We are most excited that the entire world has realised that a disease is but a flight away and it has no boundaries, no respect for personality, income and continent. This fight should be global, thus the hashtag ‘leave no one behind.Wilhelmina S. Jallah
She thanked the organisers for inviting her as speaker on a topic that holds a central place on Liberia’s government agenda.
How was the Plan developed?
Keith Sumption, FAO, explained that the Joint Action Plan was developed in response to international requests to prevent future pandemics and to promote health sustainably through the One Health approach. It outlines the commitment of the four Quadripartite organisations to collectively advocate and support the implementation of One Health. He stressed that the Plan builds on, complements and adds value to existing global and regional One Health- and coordination initiatives aimed at strengthening capacity to address complex multidimensional health risks with more resilient health systems at global, regional and national level.
The approach mobilises multiple sectors, disciplines and communities at various levels of society to work together to foster well-being and tackle threats to health and ecosystems, addressing the collective need for clean water, energy, air, safe and nutritious food, taking action on climate change and contributing to sustainable development.Keith Sumption
What is it for and how is it structured?
Wondwosen Asnake Kibret, UNEP, continued the presentation, focusing on its aims and its structure:
What is it that we want? A world better able to prevent, predict, detect and respond to health threats and improve the health of humans, animals, plants, the environment, while contributing to sustainable development. That is the big game, that is the impact we want to create.Wondwosen Asnake Kibret
He outlined the Plan’s six action tracks: enhancing countries’ capacity to strengthen health systems under a One Health approach; reducing the risks from emerging or re-emerging zoonotic epidemics and pandemics; controlling and eliminating endemic zoonotic, neglected tropical and vector-borne diseases; strengthening the assessment, management and communication of food safety risks; curbing the silent pandemic of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and better integrating the environment into the One Health approach.
How can countries use the Plan?
Francesco Branca, WHO, talked about the ways individual countries would use the plan for progress in health: ‘We need to have a very concrete operational tool for countries to take action,’ he said. ‘So we thought that perhaps we need another iteration, which is what we call the implementation framework. ‘
To structure this implementation framework, Branca said the team will learn from each of the countries already undertaking this task, citing Liberia and Cameroon as positive examples. ‘We need to be able to tailor this to the needs of other countries.’
How will the Quadripartite Alliance support countries in implementing the Plan?
Chadia Wannous, WOAH, explained that the Alliance provides a platform for all sectors to plan their contributions and to talk about funding, about implementation, and about monitoring and evaluation. ‘So we will be supporting this. We want also to identify the investment opportunities out there,’ she added referring to existing multi-lateral funds.
To push the topic at all levels the Quadripartite Alliance has approached the G7 and the G20, organising side events to advocate for One Health support. They have also developed Policy Briefs that provide guidance to countries, explaining One Health and proposing a set of activities and actions to get started.
How much will it cost to implement One Health?
She cautioned, however, that ‘without the financing, we will not be able to implement anything.’
According to Channia Wannous, the Alliance proposes that governments should use all available funding sources for One Health interventions, from multilateral, such as the World Bank’s new Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response (FIF) to domestic, and to incentivise the private sector to also play a role. According to Wannous, the World Bank and the WHO estimate that 30 billion USD are needed annually for health emergency preparedness. The World Bank also estimates that 10 billion USD are needed for prevention that is in line with a One Health Approach. ‘But how much will be needed for One Health overall? We don’t know yet.’
What is the role of the One Health High Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP)?
Thomas C. Mettenleiter, Cochair of the OHHLEP, explained that this group of scientists is tasked to advise the quadripartite partners as they implement One Health on the ground. He lauded the fact that UNEP had joined the other three UN organisations in their shared commitment towards a joint One Health approach.
He explained that OHLEPP has been working on a theory of change for the One Health approach that can guide countries in their transition to this more integrated paradigm. Another area of OHLEPP’s work is a concept for One Health surveillance, he added.
In response to questions from the audience as to how the Joint Action Plan would relate to other existing plans, e.g. for the eradication of Neglected Tropical Diseases, and how it would avoid duplication of efforts, Mettenleiter emphasised that One Health should not be seen as just one more theory or another long list of interventions:
‘One Health is actually not just a concept. One Health is a way of living.’Thomas C. Mettenleiter
Cem Özdemir: ‘One health is a defining topic of our time’
Cem Özdemir, Germany’s Federal Minister for Food and Agriculture, delivered the closing remarks in a video message. He described the launching of the Joint Action Plan as a significant milestone on the joint path of translating One Health from a scientific concept into practice. He reminded delegates that it was part of the German government’s coalition agreement to reinforce the global health architecture within the scope of the One Health approach.
At the beginning of the month, he said, it had been agreed between the involved German ministries that the existing national research platform for zoonoses should be transformed into a research platform for One Health. This will enable all involved to act more quickly and effectively in detecting and managing research needs within the area of One Health – and it will also be a key component of Germany’s One Health action plan.
‘One Health’, he stated, ‘is a defining topic of our time.’