Zoonoses account for about 25% of the infectious disease burden in low-income countries. Poverty might increase
the risk for zoonotic disease where the active human–livestock and human–wildlife interfaces can increase the
likelihood of disease transmission. A combined disease burden exists for people in areas such as tropical and
subtropical Africa, where there is likelihood of co-infection with zoonotic diseases and other pathogenic or infectious
diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV.1 Many endemic zoonoses remain widely neglected in such
settings, undetected and underreported, because their impacts are borne largely by impoverished and marginalised
communities. Due to these unique contexts, the prevention and management of emerging and endemic zoonotic
diseases in many African countries is a complex undertaking needing evidence-based guidance.
In early 2020, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Livestock Research Institute
(ILRI) took on the urgent task to provide an up-to-date, rapid scientific assessment on zoonotic diseases as part of the
UNEP’s Frontiers Report Series. The goal of the report is to provide relevant information for policymakers on how
to ‘prevent the next pandemic’ by interrogating what is known about zoonotic diseases and how best one can break
the chain of transmission. As the world presently faces the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, this timely report helps decisionmakers
with evidence-based actions, not only to flatten the curve of COVID-19 incidence, but to answer questions
about zoonoses in general and plan for the future. In this Commentary, we give a brief overview of UNEP’s latest
report and then relate some of the key messages and recommendations for policymakers to a South African context.