FAO, WHO, USAID, U.S. CDC commit to standing with Viet Nam for the elimination of human deaths from rabies

WVR - The World Health Organization (WHO) in Viet Nam, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Viet Nam, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) renew their commitment to stand with other sectors and stakeholders towards the global elimination of human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030.
World Rabies Day 2023: All for 1, One Health for all
World Rabies Day 2023: All for 1, One Health for all.

This year’s World Rabies Day theme, “Rabies: All for 1, One Health for All” in reference to Alexandre Dumas’s famous novel – The Three Musketeers, builds on the 2022 success of One Health, taking it a step further to focus more on collaboration, equality, and the strengthening of health systems. The Three Musketeers can be seen as a team of individuals who overcame challenges and inequity to achieve their goals: a clear correlation between the struggles of the stakeholders in rabies control and our joint efforts to eliminate the disease. There is a need for the global community to overcome imbalanced health systems and challenges to achieve our global goal of zero human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030 and Viet Nam National Programme on the Control and Elimination of Rabies 2022–2030. This event is also an opportunity to remind stakeholders that the fight against rabies is not limited to a single day but needs to be conducted in a sustainable way to ultimately decrease the number of rabies deaths.

The global strategic plan was jointly adopted by WHO, FAO, the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH), and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) in 2018. In Viet Nam, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and local governments, with support from these international partners have been working together to implement the National Programme on Rabies Prevention and Control. Reducing human deaths from dog-mediated rabies has been a critical goal and challenge for many countries in recent decades. However, through greater collaboration and by taking simple steps today to accelerate rabies control, we can help ensure the elimination of human deaths by 2030.

Rabies control programmes offer a great example to operationalize One Health - building the structures and trust that are crucial to establish systems for other zoonotic diseases, including those that are pandemic-prone. Ensuring equitable access to health services and rabies post-exposure prophylaxis for underserved communities not only saves lives but also strengthens national health systems. With the Zero by 30: Global Strategic Plan for the elimination of dog-mediated human rabies deaths by 2030 we have a shared global goal. The world has the vaccines, medicines, tools, and technologies to break the cycle of one of the oldest diseases. Together in unity we can eliminate rabies. Leaving no one behind. The theme further emphasizes the importance of equity, and strengthening overall health systems by ensuring that One Health is not for a select few but rather something that should be available to everyone. By collaborating and joining forces across sectors, engaging communities and committing to sustain dog vaccination, together as 1 we can work towards 1 goal to eliminate 1 disease to make One Health available to all – using rabies as the example.

While some progress has been made over the past 10 years, Viet Nam has continued to report 70 to 100 human deaths from rabies each year. In the first eight months of 2023, Viet Nam reported 61 human deaths in 26 provinces reported, which is significantly higher than the same period in 2022. Despite a significant decrease in rabies deaths in some provinces, the number of deaths increased in 20 provinces over the five-year period 2017 to 2021 compared to the period 2011 to 2016. This highlights the need to adopt lessons learned and work closely with local governments to ensure a decrease in deaths going forward.

WHO Representative in Viet Nam, Dr Angela Pratt, emphasized the need for strong commitment and the targeting of priority areas in order to eliminate deaths by 2030. “We must ensure equitable access to vital health services, including rabies post-exposure prophylaxis and pre-exposure prophylaxis, for underserved communities. This will save lives.” Dr Pratt also reiterated that “strong coordination between animal, human health, and other sectors is vital to ensure prevention and control programmes are efficiently and effectively managed.”

There is increasing international and high-level political support for One Health as a sustainable solution to combat threats such as rabies. Dog vaccination is the most cost-effective single intervention to protect humans from contracting rabies. By working together using the One Health approach, to increase rabies vaccination coverage in animals to reach at least 70%, we can break transmission of rabies to human and accelerate the progress toward Zero by 30 goal”, added Dr Rémi Nono Womdim, FAO Representative in Viet Nam.

Dr. Lindsay Kim, Global Health Security Program director, U.S. CDC office in Viet Nam, emphasized the importance of One Health approach and assured of CDC support in rabies prevention and control efforts: “We strongly advocate for the One Health approach, which integrates human, animal, and the environment. The U.S. CDC is proud to support Vietnam in adopting this approach to eliminate rabies deaths by 2030. We are collaborating with Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, particularly the Department of Animal Health, and other partners to develop national guidelines for rabies surveillance using the One Health approach”.

Rabies prevention and control require coordinated multi-sectoral responses especially animal and human health systems as well as active engagement with communities to build awareness of rabies and vaccinate dogs. Advocating for strong political commitment and mobilizing financial resources for rabies prevention and control also play important roles in elimination of human deaths from rabies.” highlighted Dr. Myat Htoo Razak, Senior Global Health Security Advisor, USAID Vietnam.

In recognition of World Rabies Day 2023, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Gia Lai provincial People’s Committee, with support from FAO, WHO, U.S. CDC, USAID and other organizations will host a joint event and national conference in Gia Lai province on 27 and 28 September 2023 to highlight shared commitment to the “Zero by 30” goal, review results of Vietnam’s National Rabies Control Program, and discuss opportunities for supporting increased vaccination in dogs.

The Viet Nam Government is committed to achieving the 2030 goal of eliminating human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by renewing the National Programme on the Control and Elimination of Rabies 2022–2030. The WHO, FAO, USAID and U.S. CDC reaffirm our continued support to the Government of Viet Nam in developing essential policies and mechanisms to reduce deaths. We encourage the Government, particularly at the local level, to prioritize and increase resources for the management of dog populations, the vaccination of dogs, and provision of post exposure prophylaxis for those bitten by dogs. FAO, WHO, USAID, and U.S. CDC commit to provide ongoing technical support to the Government of Viet Nam as we work together to end human deaths from dog-mediated rabies in Viet Nam. Together, we can achieve “Zero by 2030”.

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