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Message from the director general

The discovery of the New World screwworm in North Africa in 1988 was the first recorded instance of this dangerous species establishing itself outside the region of the Americas. The emergency that resulted has been met with a response of unusual intensity. The collaborative action taken by FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Mexico-United States Commission for the Eradication of Screwworm, with the financial support of many governments, banks and international organizations, to eradicate this infestation has been a unique example of widespread cooperation involving three continents.

There are lessons to be learned from this concerted effort. One is that the effective deployment of resources must be preceded by the very best of technical analysis, as indeed occurred in this case. The detailed studies culminated in an important programme document prepared early in 1990 by the Joint FAD/MEA Division in Vienna, and in the Project Document presented in July 1990 to the Donors' Pledging Conference. Despite considerable scrutiny and reworking in the intervening months, this basic plan still stands.

Another lesson is the necessity of having a clear delineation of responsibilities. Once the broad technical objectives are agreed upon, their efficient implementation requires good professional management. This can certainly not be provided if several agencies act independently. Indeed, within a single agency it is necessary to focus the executive authority for such urgent programmes. In July 1990, I provided this focus for the present programme by establishing the Screwworm Emergency Centre for North Africa (SECNA). I gave SECNA a clear mandate and the necessary authority. The centre assembled a team of international entomology and eradication experts whose combined technological experience has been paramount in effectively establishing the dynamics of the campaign.

FAO activities of course go back to the start of the emergency. The first report on screwworm in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya was published in the Veterinary Record by Professor El-Azazy in 1989. In a matter of weeks, an FAO mission to Libya had confirmed the presence of screwworm there, an action group had been set up, a Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) project for emergency assistance to Libya was established and all countries at risk had been notified.

In December 1990 the first sterile insects were transported from Mexico, and by February 1991 sterile insects were being dispersed over the whole infested area in North Africa. The latest case of an infested animal was on 7 April 1991. The prospects now for a rapid and successful campaign are excellent. The only remaining constraint is the need for guaranteed finance to see the project through. I feel confident, however, that success in combating this dangerous pest will be achieved in the near future. I feel sure too that apart from FAO's effective management of the programme, eradication will be brought about by the continued support of the international community and by the intensive efforts of all the scientists and technicians concerned, as well as by one more crucial element, the cooperation of the North African - and particularly the Libyan - veterinary authorities and the livestock owners themselves, who have borne the brunt of this present emergency.

Edouard Saouma - Director-General

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