Extending a helping hand to Iraqi and Afghan veterinarians

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Through years of dictatorship followed by U.S. military intervention, the veterinary infrastructures of Iraq and Afghanistan have been destabilized. Education has been disrupted, regulatory systems are nonexistent, agriculture systems are nonproductive, and animal health care delivery is functioning at a minimum capacity. To provide support for these countries, the AVMA and Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges are establishing the Taskforce on Veterinary Infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Both countries have a history rich in animal agriculture and production, and both may also prove important future U.S. trading partners. "Iraq was the fourth biggest agricultural exporter before (the reign) of Hussein," commented Dr. James E. Nave, the global accreditation monitoring agent for the AVMA.

In September 2004, 54 animal health professionals attended the first International Veterinary Conference held in Kuwait City. Representatives from the AVMA, the AAVMC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Army, and a nongovernmental aid organization joined high-ranking representatives of Kuwaiti, Afghan, and Iraqi veterinary schools, governments, and veterinary and agricultural organizations. The conference was a success in that it established relationships among veterinarians and agricultural officials across country borders.

To maintain relationships developed in Kuwait City and provide continued assistance, the AVMA/AAVMC Joint Committee recommended establishing a six-person task force, three from each association. This task force will formulate a cohesive plan of action to help Afghan and Iraqi veterinarians utilize available reconstruction money to redevelop the veterinary infrastructures for the agriculture sectors of these countries.

The task force will help build stronger relationships with international colleagues, and colleagues in the USDA and other organizations. It will also help promote standard setting to ensure continued delivery of high-quality veterinary service, particularly in the areas of public health, food safety, education, and association activities.

The cost to AVMA is $4,470, which will cover travel, lodging, and meal expenses for attendance of the AVMA representatives at three meetings.