Background: The emergence of high consequence pathogens such as Ebola and SARS-CoV-2, along with the continued burden of neglected diseases such as rabies, has highlighted the need for preparedness for emerging and endemic infectious diseases of zoonotic origin in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) using a One Health approach. To identify trends in SSA preparedness, the World Health Organization (WHO) Joint External Evaluation (JEE) reports were analysed. JEEs are voluntary, collaborative processes to assess country’s capacities to prevent, detect and rapidly respond to public health risks. This report aimed to analyse the JEE zoonotic disease preparedness data as a whole and identify strengths and weaknesses.

Methods: JEE zoonotic disease preparedness scores for 44 SSA countries who had completed JEEs were analysed. An overall zoonotic disease preparedness score was calculated as an average of the sum of all the SSA country zoonotic disease preparedness scores and compared to the overall mean JEE score. Zoonotic disease preparedness indicators were analysed and data were collated into regions to identify key areas of strength.

Results: The mean ‘Zoonotic disease’ preparedness score (2.35, range 1.00-4.00) was 7% higher compared to the mean overall JEE preparedness score (2.19, range 1.55-3.30), putting ‘Zoonotic Diseases’ 5th out of 19 JEE sub-areas for preparedness. The average scores for each ‘Zoonotic Disease’ category were 2.45 for ‘Surveillance Systems’, 2.76 for ‘Veterinary Workforce’ and 1.84 for ‘Response Mechanisms’. The Southern African region scored highest across the ‘Zoonotic disease’ categories (2.87).A multisectoral priority zoonotic pathogens list is in place for 43% of SSA countries and 70% reported undertaking national surveillance on 1-5 zoonotic diseases. 70% of SSA countries reported having public health training courses in place for veterinarians and 30% had veterinarians in all districts (reported as sufficient staffing). A multisectoral action plan for zoonotic outbreaks was in place for 14% countries and 32% reported having an established inter-agency response team for zoonotic outbreaks. The zoonotic diseases that appeared most in reported country priority lists were rabies and Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) (both 89%), anthrax (83%), and brucellosis (78%).

Conclusions: With ‘Zoonotic Diseases’ ranking 5th in the JEE sub-areas and a mean SSA score 7% greater than the overall mean JEE score, zoonotic disease preparedness appears to have the attention of most SSA countries. However, the considerable range suggests that some countries have more measures in place than others, which may perhaps reflect the geography and types of pathogens that commonly occur. The category ‘Response Mechanisms’ had the lowest mean score across SSA, suggesting that implementing a multisectoral action plan and response team could provide the greatest gains.

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