ECOFAC Programme 6 Publication- Protected Areas in Central Africa: Outposts for monitoring zoonoses?

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The COVID-19 pandemic is a powerful reminder of the inextricable link between humans, wildlife and the environment. Most epidemics of zoonoses have their origins in a breakdown in this relationship, resulting from unsustainable exploitation of nature (1).


The May 2020 issue of PARKS, published by IUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas, argues that well-connected, effectively and equitably managed networks of protected areas that maintain the ecological integrity of natural ecosystems are one of the most important ways to strengthen and restore the relationship between people and the natural systems on which they depend.


In its Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the EU underlines that "investing in nature protection and restoration will be essential for economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis" and commits to strengthen its support to partner countries to meet new global targets, combat environmental crime and address drivers of biodiversity loss. In Africa, the EU will soon launch the "NaturAfrica" initiative, which aims to protect wildlife, while providing opportunities for local populations in green sectors through the creation of a network of protected areas. The establishment of such networks is one of the responses to the pandemic that reduces the risk of similar events recurring and builds a more sustainable future for mankind and nature.


Of course, protected areas alone will not solve all the problems related to the risks of epidemics. Moreover, their impact on epidemic risk reduction will not be immediate. Among the responses that need to be implemented quickly, the establishment of large-scale surveillance systems for the early detection of events related to emerging infectious diseases in risk areas is recommended by several world-renowned scientific publications (2) and is an integral part of the "One health" approach that brings together the human health, animal health and environmental sectors (3). In this context, protected areas should be considered as outposts for monitoring zoonoses, both for scientific research: better understanding of the chain of events leading to the emergence of an infectious disease, and for health monitoring: early detection of the appearance of an infectious disease in human populations (4).


The purpose of this note is to briefly present the sentinel role that Central African protected areas can play in a large-scale zoonosis surveillance effort.


It is intended to open up this debate to ECOFAC 6 operators, DUEs, NOs and ECCAS, in anticipation of future regional and international meetings that will inevitably address the topic of zoonoses.


The note begins with (i) a reminder of the "One Health" approach and the monitoring efforts it promotes. It then explains (ii) how protected areas are relevant sites to be integrated into these monitoring efforts, (iii) what monitoring activities should be developed and (iv) what prevention measures should be put in place. It concludes with (v) some recommendations.


For more information, please download the document below:

Note_zoonoses_ECOFAC6_VF.pdf (376.3 Ko)


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