FAO, partners to roll out Trypanosomosis control measures

Tariro Stacey Gatsi

THE Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is mobilising potential partners to roll out measures aimed at containing the African animal Trypanosomosis (AAT) also known as sleeping sickness that has been wreaking havoc on livestock in Zambia and Zimbabwe.

AAT is a lethal parasitic disease caused by unicellular organisms named trypanosomes. The disease is cyclically transmitted by the bite of infected tsetse flies and it affects both humans (‘sleeping sickness’) and livestock (nagana).

In a recent X (formerly twitter) post FAO highlighted the urgent need to address the distressing impact of African animal trypanosomosis.

“FAO and partners are moving to control AAT in Zambia and Zimbabwe, which can devastate both livestock and people’s livelihoods,” read the post.

Director at Tsetse Control Division, Mr William Shereni said AAT lay at the heart of Africa’s struggle against poverty and was endemic in more than 30 countries among the least developed of the world.

“Probably more than any other disease affecting both livestock and people, trypanosomosis constrains agricultural production and causes food insecurity in vast and fertile swaths of sub-Saharan Africa,” Mr Shereni said.

He added that a comprehensive update and upgrade of the national atlas was underway involving the incorporation of new epidemiological and entomological data, for example, (tsetse stationary trapping, tsetse mobile trapping/fly rounds), as well as control data for instance (insecticide-treated targets, tsetse traffic control, and insecticide-treated cattle).

Mr Shereni highlighted that the control of tsetse and AAT in Zimbabwe was the responsibility of the Division of Tsetse Control Services and the Division of Veterinary Field Services (DVFS), respectively. Both units are part of the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS), with TCD being responsible for the management of tsetse and the compilation of AAT data and the DVFS in charge of disease management, in particular the operation of dip tanks and spray races.

“The total staff establishment of the TCD is over 500, comprising 55 based at the headquarters in Harare and approximately 50 in each of its nine field stations. A geographic information system (GIS) and data management unit is based in Harare,” said Mr Shereni.

Mr Shereni said that the FAO continental atlas of tsetse and AAT, provided the blueprint to develop a national atlas in Zimbabwe and in other countries. The development of national atlases was also spurred by the need to inform the progressive control pathway (PCP) for AAT PCPs are risk-based, stepwise strategic approaches to plan and monitor the reduction or elimination of diseases.

Each year in Africa the bloodsucking tsetse fly causes more than US$4, 5 billion in agriculture income losses, kills three million livestock and infects up to 75, 000 people with AAT, according to the UN.

Sleeping sickness places a large burden particularly on farmers because it affects livestock.

Progress in the control of AAT has been limited over the past 20 years compared to the great strides made in the control of sleeping sickness. Sleeping sickness caused devastating epidemics in the 20th century, but the World Health Organisation is now targeting its complete elimination.


Losses due to sleeping sickness are quite significant in cattle, other livestock units and pets such as dogs. The disease has no vaccine and existing drugs are losing their effectiveness through the development of resistance in the parasites. Experts say existing diagnostic methods are difficult to use in the field, while vector control tools, often not environmentally friendly and need to be improved.

Zimbabwe is one of the first countries to have initiated the adoption of this approach for tsetse and AAT control, and the development of the national atlas is its first major initiative in the PCP framework.

Although, In the 1980s and 1990s, Zimbabwe made great strides in the elimination of tsetse and AAT, which affect parts of the country to the north, north-west, north-east and south.

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