Equine Disease-Free Zone in Syria

Self-declaration of an Equine Disease-Free Zone in Syria for the purpose of facilitating the Equestrian competitions

The horse industry is a very large and important part of the Syrian economy, with big diversity, involving agriculture, business, sport, gaming, entertainment, and recreation. The equine population in Syria is considered the most important population of animals, and for this reason, the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform gives great importance to the Syrian Arabian horse breed which has a great ability to adapt to all environmental circumstances in addition to their high capacity for Endurance and Beauty in shape. Moreover, Syrian horses reached the best results in various races and competitions at the international and regional levels.

Syria will host the Al-Waffa Championship for jumping horses during the period 18 – 21/ March – 2021. One of the chain events is hosted by Bassel Al Assad Equestrian Club in Dimas.

The candidate countries will participate in this important international event are Australia, Bulgaria, Egypt, Germany, Iran, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Russia, and United Arab Emirates.

Accordingly, and based on the importance of equines in Syria, which is very linked to the livelihood of farmers and stakeholders, especially high-performance equestrian horses and Pure Arab Horses, the Veterinary Services (VS) in the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, and the Syrian Equestrian Federation in continuous collaboration with World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Experts and the regional representative for the Middle East, have put in place measures to establish an Equine disease-free zone (EDFZ) in line with the OIE Standards. To achieve this, the Syrian VS requested the OIE for its technical assistance for Syria’s self-declaration of freedom from equine diseases in establishing the EDFZ in a specific area including the area of Bassel Al Assad Equestrian Club in Dimas in accordance with the EDFZ Guidelines.

The objective of this declaration is to notify the OIE Members about the equine health status in and around the venue for the equestrian competitions in EDFZ and to share with them the information on the establishment of the EDFZ for this purpose.

This is the first time that a self-declaration of freedom from notifiable equine diseases is submitted from Syria, which self-declaration of freedom refers to the following diseases: Glanders – Dourine – Equine infectious Anaemia (EIA) –Equine Influenza (EI).

The Syrian Veterinary Service is working now in the preparation of an African Horse Sickness (AHS) dossier for official recognition of disease status by Chapters 12.1 and 1.7 of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code (Terrestrial Code).

All surveillance campaigns conducted between 2017 and 2020 in different parts of Syria, especially in the described zone for the EDFZ, indicated the very good health status for Equidae populations from the diseases mentioned above with special attention to AHS. Syria has not experienced an outbreak of AHS for decades. In addition to that, active serological surveillance was conducted in Syria in the last year that led to a conclusion on the absence of antibodies to the AHS virus, and no clinical signs compatible with AHS were detected.

The disease-free status of this zone is maintained through biosecurity measures in particular the following:

  1. The complete closing of the EDFZ core zone,

  2. A depopulated surveillance zone surrounding the described zone and

  3. The vector control and horse movement control measures implemented

  4. The maintenance of all horses’ good health status.

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