Introduction: The provision of animal health services in a changing world
Rev Sci Tech Off Int Epizoot
In the future, animal health services in developing countries will need to operate in a continuously changing policy, institutional and commercial environment. Firstly, the changing policies and priorities of national policy-makers regarding public and private sector roles, reinforced in Africa by the donors, have reduced funding and support for the large number of tasks that animal health services have traditionally performed, and there is continuing pressure from policy-makers to focus on
... the public sector can do best. Secondly, poverty reduction has become one of the main criteria guiding the allocation of official development assistance, which has major implications for the main target clientele of veterinary services. Thirdly, population growth, increasing income and urbanisation are causing a marked increase in demand for livestock products in the developing world. As a result, the entire livestock commodity chain is undergoing major structural changes, which has significant implications for the definition and control of food safety standards. Fourthly, globalisation, and increasing trade and travel have greatly increased the risk of disease transmission between different countries and continents. Veterinary institutions in the developing world need to adapt to these challenges. They will have to be able to focus on the essential public sector roles. At the same time they must deliver those essential services to the poor, and provide the policy framework to ensure that the inevitable structural changes in the commodity chain take place in an equitable and sustainable fashion, with an acceptable level of health risk for the consumer. According to the weight given to these different objectives, changes in the institutional set-up need to be considered. This issue of the Scientific and Technical Review addresses these challenges. It begins by reviewing the basic economic characteristics underlying the provision of animal health services, and then examines the alternative delivery systems that are emerging in the developing world and their strengths and weaknesses. The implications for food safety and trade are specifically highlighted. Also included are the practical experiences of countries, from all along the development continuum, that have introduced alternative systems. This paper deals with implications for the future, and while the growing importance of veterinary care for companion animals is acknowledged, the focus is on veterinary services for food animals.