The Performance of Veterinary Services (PVS) Pathway was developed by the OIE (the World Organisation for Animal Health) to support compliance with the international standards for Veterinary Services. It consists of a series of missions: PVS Evaluation (the baseline assessment), PVS Gap Analysis (strategic planning and target setting), PVS Evaluation Follow-Up (updated assessment), and further targeted support including Veterinary Support Legislation Programme (VLSP) and PVS Laboratory missions. These missions are conducted at the request of the country by accredited OIE experts, in a variable sequence and with varying time intervals.
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African countries have had a very high level of engagement with the PVS Pathway (see Figure 1) with 165 OIE PVS Pathway missions having been conducted between 2006 and June 2019 in 51 countries*. However, to date there has been no continent-wide assessment of the wealth of information held in these reports, and how they can be utilised to provide evidence of the strengthening of Africa’s Veterinary Services. This article presents a summary of the analysis of the 142 available reports (some reports were unavailable as they were classified as confidential).
Figure 1: Map of countries (n=55) showing type and order of PVS Pathway missions carried out, and column chart displaying numbers of countries per category. Note that some island nations (e.g. Cape Verde, São Tome and Principe, Mauritius, Seychelles) are poorly visible due to the map scale.
(*) One country had a recent mission but no information was made available for review and
two further countries had requested missions but these had not yet been undertaken.
The PVS Evaluation and PVS Evaluation Follow-Up missions use a well-defined protocol to assess Levels of Advancement (LoAs, categorised on a 5-point scale) of a standardised set of Critical Competencies (CCs) which cover all activities in the veterinary domain. The PVS Evaluation reports were considered to represent a baseline for each country.
The national mean of these LoAs can be taken as a useful but somewhat crude statistic of the overall performance of the Veterinary Services. Figure 2 shows the distribution of the national means. It can be seen that 55% of countries had a mean LoA between level 1 and level 2, with only one country assessed as having a mean above level 3.5. This implies that generally, the Veterinary Services had very limited authority or capability to comply with international standards.
Following the PVS Evaluation, 46 countries participated in PVS Gap Analysis missions. The objective of these missions was to assist countries in strengthening their Veterinary Services by identifying national priorities and setting targets for improving their LoAs for the relevant CCs. There was a strong emphasis on increasing animal production, improving veterinary public health and facilitating trade in animals and animal products through enhanced Veterinary Services. Considering all the available PVS Gap Analysis missions, the target was to raise their LoAs for 80% of the CCs by at least one level.
The PVS Evaluation Follow-Up reports, which followed the same protocol as the initial Evaluations, were of great value because the differences recorded between the timepoints of these assessments reflect the change in capability of the Veterinary Services over this interval. However, coverage to date was somewhat limited (22 missions had been carried out with 18 reports being made available for review). Assessing the national mean LoAs, it was found that a number of CCs showed a net increase, while others showed a reduction (Figure 3), and overall that there had been little change in the performance of Veterinary Services. However, there were notable differences between countries, with 11 countries showing improvement and 7 countries deteriorating to a variable degree. It should be noted that the apparent decline in the LoAs of some CCs must be considered in the context of changes in the PVS Tool, increasing rigour from the PVS experts, and strengthening of the review and validation of their findings and reports by the OIE peer review process. As such, the mean LoA is a coarse indicator and the narrative report text provides more nuanced information.
Figure 2: Histogram showing the national mean Levels of Advancement from PVS Evaluation reports.
Figure 3. Overall mean differences between LoAs from the PVS Evaluation Follow-Up and PVS Evaluation reports (n=18 countries), ordered by magnitude for CCs that improved by 0.2 or more and CCs that declined by 0.2 or more. Click the image to enlarge.
Reviewing the LoAs in association with the report text , marked improvements were identified in a number of core areas. Core area strengthening occurred particularly in the competencies of veterinarians, emergency preparedness and response and the implementation of disease control programmes, better management of the distribution and use of veterinary medicines and in the engagement and collaboration with the private sector. Areas in which there appeared to be deterioration included external coordination with other government authorities, disease surveillance, inspection and regulation of food safety of animal products, the regulation of the veterinary profession by veterinary statutory bodies, and the harmonisation of legislation with international standards. Major challenges remained especially in the delivery of field services with an over-reliance on veterinary paraprofessionals or lesser trained animal technicians without adequate veterinary supervision, poor laboratory reliability and quality assurance, limited use of risk analysis and epidemiology, weak food safety programmes, little effective animal/animal product identification and traceability, insufficient control of veterinary medicines and little emphasis on animal welfare.
Analysis of the VLSP reports revealed that many countries had outdated veterinary legislation that was inadequate to meet current and future challenges such as the growing domestic and global demand for foods of animal origin, increased participation in world trade, changing patterns of disease, and the emergence and re-emergence of transboundary animal diseases. It was recommended that legislation should not be developed ad hoc but should take a longer term, more holistic approach referencing national sectoral strategic plans.
The PVS Pathway reports were generally of a high standard and provided extensive background information on the country, the Veterinary Services competencies against OIE standards, and the legislation particularly as assessed by the VLSP. The reports represent an invaluable resource for the assessment and monitoring of the progress being made by Veterinary Services. The PVS Pathway has undoubtedly contributed to the strengthening of Veterinary Services, although it was not possible to attribute a direct cause/effect relationship owing to the many factors influencing the overall performance of the Veterinary Services, including national priorities especially in those countries that had a strong focus on export of animals and animal products, economic strength and development focus, political and social stability, international relationships and support, and the level of perceived risk to global health, the livestock sector and its importance and stage of development.
Priority development areas for national Veterinary Services identified in the review included:
- Improved professional and technical staff capacity and training with a strengthened chain of command within the Veterinary Services and with Competent Authorities;
- Defined needs and capabilities of veterinary laboratories with adequate national budget, well-trained staffing and formal quality assurance;
- Strengthened border security and quarantine with improved regional coordination harmonisation of sanitary requirements;
- Review and revision of national strategies for priority diseases with appropriate funding and increased regional cooperation to achieve a sustainable improvement of transboundary animal diseases;
- Improved food safety legislation and increased numbers and better training of inspectors including the development of traceability systems for animal products, food safety emergency plans and residue monitoring programmes;
- Development of national programmes including legislation on animal welfare;
- Updating of v eterinary legislation to meet OIE and other international standards;
- Increased engagement of the private sector for service provision in areas where capacity is limited (e.g. for laboratory testing, disease surveillance, vaccination, ante- and post-mortem inspection), for instance by the establishment of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs).