04 July 2014 - The emergence of new and potentially pandemic infectious diseases like certain avian influenza strains raises serious public health, economic, security and development concerns. Since launching the five-year Emerging Pandemic Threats Programme (EPT1) in 2009 to predict and prepare for such global epidemics, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has opted to continue with their development and investment work to consolidate the lessons from EPT1 and the previous efforts on avian influenza being supported since 2005 in a new programme called Emerging Pandemic Threats Programme 2 (EPT2).
EPT2 is expected to be launched in the fall of 2014 for an additional period of five years with a select geographical focus in certain parts of Asia and Africa. The Programme is based on seven Areas of Strategic Focus (ASFs), which support the three main sub-programmes of EPT2, namely: i) the One Health Workforce; ii) PREDICT-21; and iii) Preparedness and Response. As one of the implementing partners, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is expected to work with other EPT2 partners and focus on five of the seven ASFs, which are: i) developing datasets for understanding drivers of disease emergence; ii) promoting policies and practices that reduce the risk of disease emergence; iii) supporting national One Health platforms; iv) strengthening national preparedness to respond to events of public health significance; and v) strengthening global networks for real-time biological surveillance of health threats.
In preparation of EPT2, FAO held an initial internal consultation in Siem Reap, Cambodia, from 23 to 25 April 2014 to develop what the Organization would be contributing to USAID's Programme in terms of technical work under each of the five ASFs. A second gathering was held in Rome on 24 and 25 June 2014 in order to decide how FAO would deliver programme components developed at the Cambodia meeting.
Some thirty participants from FAO's Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) offices in Africa and Asia and FAO headquarters joined the Rome meeting under the leadership of the Animal Health Service. Together, they focused on identifying key outputs and activities to be delivered under the five ASFs. For each high level activity the participants determined the geographic focus based on an epizonal approach (a determined geographical area with similar disease ecological characteristics), the levels of intervention, the methodology, the expertise required, the strategic partners and the link with FAO’s own Strategic Framework.
FAO's aim is to deliver an integrated global and inter-regional programme with some specific country activities, and coordinated between Africa and Asia using the ECTAD platform. The participants took practical steps towards an organizational plan to facilitate the effective implementation of EPT2, assigning roles to global and regional coordinators for each “epizone”. The meeting gave the participants the opportunity to discuss how to deliver and coordinate EPT2 outputs and activities at national, regional and global levels.
In the next phase of the process, a team at FAO will deliver the proposal to USAID, taking into account the outcomes of the Rome meeting, including the plan of activities for the FAO component under EPT2 as well as the implementation arrangements and internal coordination mechanisms for FAO's role in the Programme.