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Press Release 99/04

FAO WARNS OF DANGER TO NEAR EAST IF OUTBREAK OF ANIMAL DISEASES IN IRAQ IS NOT CONTAINED - SITUATION COULD THREATEN NEAR EAST FOOD SECURITY


Rome, February 10 -- The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today expressed grave concern that the outbreak of animal diseases in Iraq may spread to other countries in the Near East seriously undermining food security in the region.

In a statement released to the media, FAO warned: "The multitude of diseases afflicting livestock in Iraq threatens the health of people living in infested areas and could seriously undermine food security in the countries of the Near East.

"FAO is gravely concerned that the outbreak of animal diseases in Iraq may spread to other countries in the Near East. The diseases include the Old World screwworm, foot-and-mouth disease, peste des petits ruminants (PPR) and brucellosis. Except for brucellosis, which is endemic to the region, the diseases may easily spread to neighboring countries.

"Iraq would need to import the vaccines required to fight foot-and-mouth disease and PPR. The vaccines are made from inactive or incapacitated disease agents, which cannot be used for other purposes. Procurement of the vaccines and their timely delivery is vital to safeguarding animal health, which is an essential component of food security in the region.

"The animal disease situation in Iraq has been aggravated by the collapse of the veterinary infrastructure and disease investigation, surveillance and diagnostic services in the country. The government has been unable to adequately monitor and control the spread of these diseases, partly because of the difficulties it has in obtaining equipment and supplies, particularly vaccines. As a result the Iraqi government has repeatedly sought the assistance of FAO to deal with the outbreaks.

"Given the potential adverse repercussions of the animal diseases on the countries that border Iraq, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf met with permanent representatives to FAO from concerned countries on 29 January. The meeting, at FAO Headquarters, discussed the current state of the epidemic diseases in Iraq and measures taken by the Organization to contain and eradicate the diseases. It also urged countries in the region to be vigilant and to step up precautionary disease monitoring and control measures.

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For more information on FAO, please visit the FAO web site at: http://www.fao.org

Contact: John Riddle (39) 06 57 05 32 59 (0830-1700 CET) or (39) 348 23 41 145 (After 1700 CET)


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