Veterinary institutions in the developing world need to adapt to the challenges of the increase in animal production (scale and intensity) and trade and in the movement of animals and products of animal origin, all of which significantly increase the threat of animal disease and zoonosis transmission. This adaptation of Veterinary Services will be carried out in the context of the important changes in the public and private sectors that have taken place in recent years: changing concepts regarding the role of government resulted in budget cuts and reduced support for the large number of tasks that the public Veterinary Services traditionally performed. The greater focus of national and international policy-makers on reducing poverty in the developing world also added another dimension to the role of animal health services. All these different trends, led to a change in the division of responsibilities between public and private service providers and between the professional (university educated) and para-professional levels. 

This special issue of the Scientific and Technical Review of the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) provides a balance of the experiences so far and alternative approaches. A group of experts, who have been involved in the development of alternative animal health delivery systems, assess their experiences. The focus is on sub-Saharan Africa, because that is where the need for alternative systems is most pronounced, but all other continents are also covered. Some examples of veterinary institutions in the developed world, and their historical evolution, are provided as indications as to how these systems might work if transferred to the developing world. Depending on the background of the authors, the assessments focus on direct impacts on animal health, possible impacts on human public health, equity for the different target groups and the capacity to reach poor livestock keepers, or respecting trade related sanitary standards.

This publication will help competent public veterinary authorities to design more effective veterinary delivery systems that help to improve the surveillance and notification of animal diseases and zoonoses, to safeguard public health, and to open up new markets for livestock products, thereby improving the livelihoods of the 600 million small livestock keepers in the developing world.