Expert Talk: Working with rural and indigenous communities to understand wildlife use and zoonotic disease.

In November 2023, the Alliance hosted an Expert Talk featuring Prof Julia Fa from CIFOR (Center for International Forestry Research), Indonesia, and Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. CIFOR is a non-profit scientific research organization specialising in research on the use and management of tropical forests and wildlife in developing countries. Julia Fa, a senior research associate at CIFOR, shared her extensive experience in conservation science during this insightful presentation.

The focus of Julia Fa’s presentation was the vital collaboration between researchers and local as well as indigenous communities. She highlighted the importance of developing inclusive collaborations with these rural communities. Together, scientists and communities can join forces in gathering crucial data to understand levels of wildlife use, to generate ways of promoting sustainable hunting practices. Access to robust data enables the generation of indicators of overexploitation and impacts on ecosystems, human health, and livelihoods. By generating such information, including relevant biological metrics of game species, will strengthen our understanding of sustainable practices. Moreover, recognizing the interconnected nature of overexploitation, ecosystem health, human well-being, and livelihoods is fundamental. By actively engaging with scientists, participating communities can share their age-old experience and traditional ecological knowledge and together generate practical approaches for the sustainable management of wild meat, addressing both rural supply and urban demand. This necessitates interventions covering the entire trade chain, involving local hunting communities, middlemen, traders, consumers, and broader society. Julia later elaborated on the expansion and replication of tried and tested methods that can be applied to other areas of the world, especially in the context of promoting a South-South exchange promoted by CIFOR. As an example, knowledge and experiences gained by colleagues in the Amazon were shared with colleagues from the Congo Basin.

The presentation underscored the invaluable role of community-driven partnerships in safeguarding the delicate balance between human and environmental health.

The presentation underscored the invaluable role of community-driven partnerships in maintaining the delicate balance between human and environmental health. Julia also delved into the health risks associated with handling game meat and shared initial results of sample analyses within the Alliance-funded project in Cameroon and Congo. A 6-step plan for community-based monitoring was outlined.

Lastly, Julia discussed the health risks involved in handling game meat and the initial results of the sample analyses in the context of the Alliance-funded project in Cameroon and Congo.

The subsequent open Q&A session provided an opportunity for in-depth questions, fostering potential further collaborations on the horizon. The entire presentation is available for viewing in our members area.

Global One Heath Day 2023: Awareness campaign in four African countries

The Transnational African Zoonosis Education Campaign (ZEC) takes the One-Health-message to the people in Cameroon, Liberia, Nigeria, and Zambia. While Pro Wildlife provides the scientific background of zoonoses in these countries, the four rescue centers of the consortium have integrated the health risks of zoonoses into their education and outreach programs.

These rescue centers are taking care of seized primates, pangolins, and other species, who have survived as victims of the bushmeat trade. But even more people can be reached by addressing not only animal conservation, but also human health. ZEC is running a broad-based information campaign reaching people of all ages, in both cities and in rural areas.

The poaching of monkeys, pangolins, parrots, and bats for bushmeat is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity in Africa. And it not only threatens the animal species concerned, but also poses a significant health risk to the people who trade in or consume these wild animals. However, people who have been eating bushmeat for generations are hardly aware of the risks and mistrust warning information. This is precisely where our educational work in four African countries (Cameroon, Liberia, Nigeria, and Zambia), where large quantities of bushmeat are still eaten, comes in.

We are cooperating with local authorities and use a wide variety of approaches with school projects, workshops, radio broadcasts, social media, major sporting events and other activities. Our aim is to test and evaluate as many tools as possible in order to provide educational campaigns elsewhere with a toolkit for the successful integration of the One-Health idea.

The Transnational African Zoonosis Education Campaign is carried out by

Pro Wildlife (lead), Germany

Game Rangers International – Zambia Primate Project, Zambia

Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary, Liberia

Pandrillus Cameroon – Limbe Wildlife Centre, Cameroon

Pandrillus Nigeria – Drill Ranch, Nigeria

Check out the project profile here.

The Alliance at ‘Breaking Barriers: Advancing the One Health Agenda with a Focus on Environment’

Frank Peters | Fotografie

The Alliance was pleased to co-organise the ‘Breaking Barriers’ event in Berlin on October 12-13, 2023. The conference was hosted by the Tierpark Berlin, in the beautiful Schloss Friedrichsfelde and was co-organized by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV), the Quadripartite Collaboration on One Health (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [FAO], United Nations Environment Programme [UNEP], World Health Organization [WHO], World Organisation for Animal Health [WOAH]), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Sector Initiative One Health of the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), and the International Alliance against Health Risks in Wildlife Trade.

Frank Peters | Fotografie

Dr. Nagel presenting on the wildlife trade x health nexus at Breaking Barriers in Berlin

As the event promoted a stronger focus on the environment, breakout sessions covered topics such as soil health or invertebrate biodiversity services and invasive species. About 115 international guests from different sectors including academia, NGOs, or UN agencies joined the onsite event, representing 65 different organisations from over 20 countries. Various keynote speeches were delivered addressing the importance of the environmental pillar within the One Health approach. Head of programme of the Alliance, Dr. Michael Nagel, presented on the wildlife trade and health nexus. Other speakers included Doreen Robinson (Head of Biodiversity at UNEP) who pointed out that “there is no healthy life on a sick planet” or Monica Medina (President and CEO of WCS) calling out that “time for action is now”. Dr. Kim Grützmacher, Senior Advisor to the International Alliance, joined a panel discussion on ‘Cross-sectoral reflections and future opportunities for One Health’ alongside Doreen Robinson (UNEP), Dr. Frauke Fischer (University of Würzburg), Dr. Keith Sumption (FAO), and Dr. Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine (Arramat Project) . Kim reflected on the need for One Health to become even more inclusive: “(…) often we don’t have people in the room who should be there [from other relevant disciplines] but are so difficult to get into the room because they don’t know that they could contribute (…)”.. Find an extensive summary on the event and other speakers on the Breaking Barriers Event Website.

Frank Peters | Fotografie

Frauke Fischer, Kim Grützmacher, Doreen Robinson and Keith Sumpton (from left to right) on the panel on ‘Cross-sectoral reflections and future opportunities for One Health

The Breakout Sessions:

As a co-host, the Alliance also co-led two Breakout Sessions on ‘Pandemic Prevention at Source = Protection of Ecosystems & Biodiversity’ and ‘German ‘Flagship’ Projects on biodiversity/health: International Alliance and N4H’. Below you can find a summary of the outcomes of the two sessions.

Pandemic Prevention at Source = Protection of Ecosystems & Biodiversity’

Breakout lead/s: Kim Grützmacher (International Alliance against Health Risks in Wildlife Trade), Pablo Sagredo Martin (UNEP), Wondwosen Asnake Kibret (UNEP), Cristina Romanelli (WHO), Molly Crystal (WCS), Chris Walzer (WCS), Chadia Wannous (WOAH)

Moderator: Cristina Romanelli; Pablo Sagredo Martin (co-moderator)

Speakers: Prof. Dr. Nitish Debnath (National Coordinator, One Health Bangladesh, OHHLEP member); Dr. Chadia Wannous (One Health Global Coordinator, World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH)); Joan Carling (Executive Director, Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI))

Frank Peters | Fotografie

Moderator Cristina Romanelli engaging in the group discussion

Along the different stages of disease emergence leading to pandemics the proportion of pathogens making it to the next stage (from pre-emergence to pandemic) decreases as the costs for stopping them increases. Scientists have made a compelling economic case for pandemic primary prevention (prevention at source or upstream prevention) and claim that the cost of preventing further pandemics over the next decade by protecting wildlife and forests and regulating intensive livestock production in and around highly biodiverse ecosystems would equate to just 2% of the estimated financial damage caused by Covid-19.

Even though this approach would come with notable ancillary benefits for the climate and biodiversity, currently only a small percentage of efforts to reduce the risks of future pandemics goes to prevention at source (at the stages of pre-emergence and spillover) while the majority is invested in preparedness measures.

Approaches recognizing the incredible opportunity for investments contributing to solving the triple crisis (health, climate and biodiversity) are not only cost-effective but can reduce and prevent a lot of harm and suffering in the mid- and long-term. In this session we looked at the current discourse around pandemic “prevention”, and the practical implications.

Key Points from the discussion

  1. The two main challenges or barriers identified where the issues around not having a defined and common understanding of what pandemic prevention at source is and the lack of coordination between sectors when addressing pandemic prevention.
  • Prevention must be proactive vs. reactive and must lead us to address the drivers of spillovers – but the term “prevention” is understood very differently in different spheres – from conservation to policy to public health and social science – a common definition in the context of pandemic prevention is needed.
  • In the context of addressing the risks of future pandemics, strategies to reduce the probability of zoonotic spillover events are still misunderstood (including One Health), under-prioritized and under-utilized, despite their significant social, ecological, climate and economic co-benefits
  • The strong economic case for primary prevention (cost-effectiveness of measures) can help to overcome the prevention paradox (perceived invisibility of the value of prevention plus time lag of effects).
  • We need to learn from Indigenous knowledges and practices to observe and assess environmental changes, identify disease spillover risks, and shape prevention strategies.
Frank Peters | Fotografie

Workshop participants writing down thoughts and ideas on “how can prevention at source be effectively operationalized at local and national level”?

Key actions

  1. Agree on the definition of “prevention” as actions to identify threats and reduce risk of spillover (as opposed to preparedness and response which refers to actions which limit spread in human population) and use term consistently.
  2. Shift the infectious disease control paradigm from reactive to proactive (primary / spillover prevention) and show the cost of “inaction” vs. “action” on prevention.
  3. Address drivers of pathogen spillover with a One Health approach at the human-animal-environment interface to minimise the risk of human infection by zoonotic pathogens.
  4. Translate abstract concepts and strategies (including One Health) by showcasing concrete actions taken on the ground to detect and prevent spillover risks.
  5. Action should range from sustainable use and management of ecosystems, identifying critical control points, risk communication, monitoring the occurrence and spread of diseases, access to vaccines while also fully utilizing existing tools and policies for pandemic prevention and response (co-design, co-create, co-construct, co-lead).

Open Questions

  1. What policies and political instruments are needed to enable prevention? How we can leverage existing tools or processes to lead us to enforceable legal frameworks that allow for action, starting at the local level?
  2. How do we address the lack of policy coherence, effort duplication (data duplication), and the need for whole of government approaches?
  3. How can we address vested interests amongst the stakeholders (particularly in preparedness and response), corruption as a symptom of this, short-termism in organizations and in the system, the lack of finance directed towards pandemic prevention and the existent erratic finance flows that exacerbate the drivers of pandemics?
  4. How can we ensure that Indigenous knowledges and practices related to wildlife and ecosystem management are integrated into pandemic prevention strategies?

‘German ’Flagship’ Projects on biodiversity/health: International Alliance and N4H’

Breakout lead/s: Dr. Kim Grützmacher (International Alliance against Health Risks in Wildlife Trade), Nadja Münstermann (UNEP), Dr. Julian Blanc (UNEP), Dr. Chadia Wannous (WOAH), Catherine Machalaba & Hongying Li (EcoHealth Alliance)

Moderator: Maike Voss (Center for Planetary Health Policy)

Speakers: Dr. Julian Blanc (Senior Program Officer, Ecosystems Division, UNEP); Dr. Raymond Hamoonga (One Health Specialist, Zambia National Public Health Institute); Dr. Ulaankhuu Ankhanbaatar (Laboraqtory Head of TADs diagnostic and surveillance, State Central Veterinary Laboratory, Mongolia); Johannes Keil (GIZ Global Program “International Alliance against Health Risks in Wildlife Trade”); Dr. Christina Pettan-Brewer (Associate Professor, Director andSenior Veterinarian, One Health Brazil/Latin America (OHLAIC/CYTED) and UW Center for One Health Research; Joan Carling (Executive Director, Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI))

Frank Peters | Fotografie

Johannes Keil (Advisor Governance at the Internat. Alliance) presenting on the International Alliance during the Breakout Session

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic various initiatives were launched to prevent, prepare for, and respond to future pandemics. Within this triad, few address pandemics primary prevention or prevention at source – pre-spillover. Of those that do, few explicitly focus on the environment, ecosystems, and wildlife (fauna), even though this is arguably the most effective and cost-efficient approach to prevent the emergence of new and re-emergence of infectious diseases of zoonotic origin.

In 2021 and 2022, respectively, the German government (represented by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development – BMZ – and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection – BMUV) launched two initiatives which promote the synergies of nature conservation and health protection: The International Alliance against Health Risks in Wildlife Trade and the Multi Partner Trust Fund – Nature for Health (N4H).

The breakout session highlighted the benefits of taking a participatory systems approach to One Health implementation. We explored not only what to do (i.e. prevention), but also how to do it (i.e. dive into systemic practices). We looked at synergies and how to maximise them, discussing what this work means in the larger context of pandemic prevention at source.

Key points from the discussions

  1. Anthropogenic drivers of biodiversity degradation and loss highlight emerging health threats which are deeply embedded in both local and global matrices, unleashing catastrophic consequences for life on earth.
  2. The urgency of the hour demands integrated and systemic approaches that purposefully interlink the missions of halting biodiversity loss and protecting health simultaneously, to create sustainable solutions to our interconnected ecological and health crises.
  3. It is possible to simultaneously address the biodiversity and health crises as a growing number of programs are highlighting.
  4. Local stakeholders are absolutely critical for success and should define what success looks like, while governments and suitable governance structures are crucial to create enabling conditions.
Frank Peters | Fotografie

Workshop participants listening intently to a workshop input

Key actions:

…for governments:

  1. Donors are encouraged to break down existing siloed funding structures and strategically interlink funding streams, thereby facilitating the critical funding of integrated health projects that have the dual capacity to help countries meet their health and biodiversity commitments (while co-benefiting climate change mitigation and adaptation). They are encouraged to invest in programs at the biodiversity-health nexus for improved health through cost-effective prevention, while simultaneously contributing to biodiversity targets.
  2. PARITY (Participatory, Action-oriented, Responsive, Iterative, Transparent, Yielding) in action: Advocating for approaches that are inherently participatory and demand-driven – promoting iterative, non-linear pathways informed by continuous feedback loops, thereby cultivating resilient and adaptive strategies in biodiversity and health interventions.
  3. Global urgency governance: There is a need for globally coordinated, accelerating, long-term governance that responds to the urgent need for effective action: interdepartmental, cross-scale and coherent policymaking based on systematic coordination processes between outward- and inward-facing policy fields and oriented towards the guiding principle of healthy living on a healthy planet.
    …for stakeholders:
  4. Engage at different levels, i.e., at community level, influencers, and decision makers at local and district level, including engagement of sociologists, behavioural psychologists, marketing and communication experts, economists, political scientists, etc

All the key points and key actions have been established with the work and input of all the co-organisers, speakers and participants of the Breakout Sessions.

The documentation of the outcomes of all Breaking Barrier’s Breakout Sessions can be accessed here.

We are deeply grateful to our co-organizers, our funding and supporting ministries (BMZ & BMUV), to the speakers, our members, the participants and the event management team, who made this event a true success! A special thanks goes to our wonderful intern and new junior advisor: Mascha Kaddori and Ann-Kristin Konzak, without whom we could not have pulled our weight!

World Health Summit 2023 –Three Key Sessions

The World Health Summit 2023, held in Berlin, Germany, brought together some of the most influential minds in the field of global health. This annual event, considered one of the premier gatherings for healthcare professionals, policymakers, and researchers, provided a platform for discussions, collaborations, and innovative solutions to pressing global health challenges. The summit took place from October 15 to October 17, 2023, attracted 3,100 on-site participants from 106 countries including the Alliance Secretariat and Steering Committee.

This report highlights three key sessions that covered diverse aspects of global health and One Health, focusing on health equity in an intergenerational and interspecies context, the lessons learned from COVID-19, pandemic prevention and preparedness and the risks of avian influenza.

1. Intergenerational and Interspecies One Health Equity:
This session broadened the discussion on One Health to include intergenerational and interspecies health equity, emphasizing the interconnectedness of biodiversity loss, pandemics, climate change, food security, and global inequities. Session speakers advocated for a socio-ecological model of public health, which considers determinants of health at individual and population levels. The session encouraged collaboration between diverse stakeholders to holistically address global health issues. It underscored the importance of understanding and managing health from an interspecies perspective, acknowledging similarities and limitations in meeting the needs of diverse living beings in the shared environment. The expanded socio-ecological model was proposed as a framework to protect health and Earth’s biodiversity for the benefit of all species and generations. Re-watch this session on YouTube here

2. Learning from COVID-19 for Future Pandemic Prevention:
This session recognized the transformation of global health priorities and approaches driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Key takeaways included the outcomes of the UN High-Level Meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response, which would guide future action. Christian Drosten (a virologist and Director of the Institute for Virology at Charité) addressed human behavior as a risk factor and driver for the occurrence of future pandemics particularly in the context of captive wildlife and fur farming.However, overall, we as Alliance have missed more emphasis on the urgent need for zoonotic spillover prevention. Strategies to reduce the probability of spillover events are still under-prioritised, under-utilized and under-funded. With the Alliance we work towards primary prevention – prevention at the source: actions to identify threats and reduce risk of spillover as opposed to actions to limit spread in human population, as outlined in the recent publication by the members of the One Health High-Level Expert Panel (OHHLEP): here
Although the session called for a holistic approach to pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response, involving various stakeholders and emphasizing community resilience, there is still a lot of work to be done to highlight the importance of the One Health approach and primary prevention in this context.

3. OH Risk Assessment of Avian Influenza:
This session, focusing on avian influenza, drew attention to the potential pandemic risk posed by avian influenza viruses. The panel discussed current outbreaks and the history of avian influenza crossing species barriers to infect humans. The fear of a potential human pandemic is heightened, especially after an 11-year-old girl died in Cambodia from H5N1 influenza without direct contact with infected poultry. During the workshop, the latest findings on avian influenza were discussed, with an emphasis on risk assessment and countermeasures to prevent further transmission to humans. The session highlighted the risks of fur farms and underlined the significance of monitoring and preparedness to mitigate the risks posed by avian influenza.

One of the most valuable aspects of the World Health Summit is the networking opportunities it provides. The Alliance Secretariat and the Steering Committee members engaged in fruitful discussions, paved the way for future collaborations, expanded and deepened networks, and represented the Alliance’s goals and issues.

In conclusion, the World Health Summit 2023 in Berlin addressed pressing issues of global health, One Health, and equity across a range of informative sessions. These discussions touched upon the urgency of a coordinated global effort to address health risks across species, the need for inclusive pandemic pre-spillover prevention, and a shared responsibility to protect the health of present and future generations. While there have been many important sessions related to human health, the environment and animal health remained rather underrepresented. There also remains room for improvement to highlight the importance of pandemic prevention at source to inspire collective action and fostering collaboration in the quest for a healthier and more equitable world.