The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is supporting Rwanda’s efforts towards eradicating the current outbreak of peste des petits ruminants (PPR) – also known as sheep and goat plague – after the small stock destructive disease was reported in the country in September 2023. PPR is a viral contagious transboundary disease caused by a morbillivirus, which affects goats, sheep, and some wild relatives of domesticated small ruminants and camels, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH). The disease can have a severe negative socio-economic impact on the income of livestock farmers and, in particular, the livelihoods and food security of the most vulnerable rural communities. FAO indicated the outbreak that Rwanda declared is the first in the country. It added that an official request for assistance from Rwanda’s Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI) was sent to the Organization on 6 October 2023, outlining a need for support in obtaining vaccines and laboratory reagents and equipment for early PPR diagnosis, detection, and prevention. On November 7, FAO-Rwanda and the FAO Emergency Management Centre (EMC), in close collaboration with the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB) and the Ministry of Agriculture, kicked off an emergency response mission to enhance the country’s ability to respond to and prevent further spread of PPR in Rwanda and at the regional level. The field mission was carried out in both Bugesera District (Ruhuha animal market) and Ngoma satellite veterinary laboratories to support the veterinary laboratory in the assessment of their capacity for PPR diagnosis and detection, in line with the FAO/WOAH global strategy for control and eradication of the disease. The Ruhuha livestock market was chosen because of its location at the Rwanda-Burundi border, with transboundary movements of sheep and goats passing through official and non-official entry points that constitute potential factors for PPR virus introduction in Rwanda. Furthermore, the mission team visited border inspection and control points between Rwanda and Burundi governments under customs rules and regulations relevant to control of the movement of animals and animal products, among others. Dr. Jean-Paul Mushayija, an epidemiologist at FAO-Rwanda, said the latter is supporting the veterinary services in the assessment of the current PPR epidemiological situation in the country and the risk of further spread within the country and beyond. FAO observed that surveillance mechanisms must adopt strategies for the control of PPR in susceptible sheep and goats in Rwanda to establish the presence, circulation, and persistence of the virus that will assist the country in decreasing levels of epidemiological risk with increasing levels of prevention and control. Dr. Mushayija stated that the findings from this field mission would provide valuable insights into the current emergency response and help the veterinary services to understand better disease better understand the PPR disease epidemiological situation. The existing capacity of the national laboratory for PPR diagnosis and detection will also support the country in joining the world infighting against PPR eradication by 2030. Varied support To strengthen prevention mechanisms against PPR in Rwanda toward a global PPR eradication programme by 2030, FAO is supporting MINAGRI in the development of a National strategy for the control and eradication of peste des petits ruminants Strategic Plan in Rwanda. as well as procurement of enough PPR vaccines for its prevention. In addition, FAO plans to procure laboratory kits for diagnostic and laboratory capacity – focusing on early detection, screening, and response, and to equip the national veterinary laboratory with the required reagents and tools for PPR diagnosis at the PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) detection level. Also, it committed itself to supporting field surveillance of PPR, focusing on detecting incursions and early warning surveillance at known “hot spots,” among other interventions. According to Dr. Fabrice Ndayisenga, the Head of the Department of Animal Resources Research and Technology Transfer at RAB, the partnership between the Government of Rwanda and FAO is consistent with Rwanda's pledge to achieve the global goal of eradicating PPR by 2030. He said PPR is a non-zoonotic disease, meaning that, although it has a high mortality rate among goats and sheep, it cannot be transmitted from the affected small stock to humans. “Through the partnership with FAO, we can put in a greater effort, and we will not wait until 2030 to be able to eradicate this disease. We realize that if we carry out vaccination against and diagnosis of the disease, and if people comply with the required instructions, the disease can be eradicated in three years,” he said. Ndayisenga called for vigilance among residents to avoid introducing the disease into the country from neighboring countries where it is present. He said that PPR is being observed mainly in Kayonza District. He pointed out that 215 goats sourced from Kayonza and given to beneficiary residents in Karongi District under a small livestock development project were found to be infected with the disease. The goats were later taken away from the farmers, and a vaccination campaign was initiated to immunize other goats and sheep against the disease. Following the incident, Ndayisenga said that measures were being taken to prevent the spread of the disease. Therefore, it was announced that any entity offering goats to residents must them screened to ensure they are free disease of the illness. Currently, Ndayisenga said, Rwanda has a population of up to 1.5 million goats and 400,000 sheep. According to Mr. Jean Claude Ndorimana, the Director General of Animal Resources Development in the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MINAGRI), PPR can be deadly for animals and has a 30-70 percent fatality rate but does not infect Humans. That said, PPR has major effects on people due to the severe impact of PPR on food security, community resilience, and livelihoods. He appreciated the quick response of FAO-Rwanda upon the Ministry’s request for assistance in obtaining vaccines and laboratory reagents and equipment for early PPR detection, diagnosis, and prevention in Rwanda. He emphasized that FAO continues to support MINAGRI in the transformation of the agriculture sector in Rwanda through joint planning as well as to reduce the risks of animal health threats that can devastate livelihoods and food security. By building the country’s capacities to prevent, detect, and respond to animal/human health threats. He shows the commitment of the Ministry to combatting this highly contagious animal disease and raising the commitment to meeting the goal of global eradication by 2030. DG highlights that it is looking forward to receiving FAO support intended to strengthen surveillance, vaccination, and post-vaccination sero-monitoring at the country level as an essential tool to control PPR and protect animal health and welfare, and livelihoods in Rwanda. How does PPR affect animals? As noted, PPR is characterized by severe morbidity and mortality rates. Animals affected by the disease often have symptoms, including high fever and depression, along with eye and nose discharges. Such animals cannot eat, as their mouth becomes covered in painful erosive lesions, and they suffer from severe pneumonia and diarrhea. Death is frequently the outcome as it was indicated. PPR is on WOAH’s list of notifiable diseases, and positive detection of the disease must be reported to the Terrestrial Animal Health Code. Efficient PPR vaccines are available and can induce life-long protective immunity in vaccinated animals.