New $6 Million Donor Investment to Tackle Causes of Foodborne Disease in Ethiopia

Kristina Roesel of ILRI, who conducts A4NH research on food safety, speaks at the launch event with other partner organization representatives. Photo: A.Habtamu/ILRI

The UK Government's Department for International Development (DFID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) are supporting four new research projects to address a broad set of robust and large-scale research priorities to guide program and policy efforts to improve food safety in Ethiopia.This will be achieved through a consortium of national and international research partners working together to support the country's ongoing efforts. This investment comes at a critical time, as WHO reports the global burden of food safety to be of similar magnitude as malaria or HIV/AIDS.

Worldwide, more than 600 million people fall ill each year from food they eat, and the death rate is highest in Africa. Foodborne disease agents can contribute to stunting and a number cause serious illness or death. A recent World Bank study estimates the losses in human productivity are more than US$100 billion for all low and middle-income countries (LMIC).

Despite the overall and evident importance of foodborne disease in LMIC, few have a prioritized food safety policy. An important reason is that prevention and control of foodborne disease is very complex, and thus complicated. Most of these infections are transmitted not only through a variety of foods (e.g., livestock-derived foods as well as fruit and vegetables), but also through the environment, or by direct animal or human contact. Targeted prevention and intervention, therefore, require evidence on the public health impact of specific foodborne diseases, and their most important causes, sources, and transmission routes.

The urgency of addressing food safety cannot be overstated as undernutrition remains one of the greatest challenges to human and economic development. In LMIC, child stunting is common, with its lifelong consequences on physical and intellectual development, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and have infants to feed struggle to meet the basic energy and nutrient requirements of themselves and their children, increasing their vulnerability to illness. The consumption of only small amounts of meat, milk, eggs, or fish by infants up to two years of age and by expectant and new mothers in a well-balanced diet with vitamin-rich fruit and vegetables could help the future generation achieve its full potential. If the safety of these foods cannot be ensured, it may only aggravate the problem of undernutrition.

All projects seek to generate more evidence on the actual health and economic burden of foodborne diseases in Ethiopia, critical points in food supply chains where interventions could be most feasible and cost-effective for public health in the Ethiopian context. Commodities studied will be dairy, beef, chicken, and vegetables. Interventions will be identified in collaboration with local health practitioners and food supply chain actors including the consumers themselves. In the process, national and international researchers will work closely with local and national decision makers to translate this evidence into practice.

The four principal investigators include Addis Ababa University, the International Livestock Research Institute, Ohio State University, and Technical University of Denmark. Other partners include A4NH, the Global One Health initiative in Ethiopia, University of Gondar, Haramaya University, and Holeta Agricultural Research Center.

The projects were jointly launched at the Hilton hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 14 February 2019.


This post also appeared on ILRI News. For more information, please contact Getnet Yimer, MD, PhD, Eastern Africa Regional Director, Global One Health Initiative and Office of International Affairs, The Ohio State University, at ali.578@osu.edu.

For more information on the individual projects, please visit the ANH Academy.