08 December 2017 - The Global Framework for the Progressive Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases (GF-TADs) is a joint FAO/OIE mechanism providing a regional coordinating framework for a range of infectious disease control activities occurring at global and regional levels. From 28-30 November 2017 a total of 30 participants from island states such as Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Samoa, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu as well as representatives from New Zealand and Australia and international organizations discussed the ongoing disease situation and risks in the region as well as emergency preparedness and response. Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) based in Fiji, was identified as key actor in the implementation of GF-TADs. In the interaction with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), national Veterinary Services and technical specialists, the Regional Specialised Organisations (RSOs) strategize and prioritise activities for disease control, notification, surveillance, and risk mitigation.
Animal welfare was a further topic to which an entire day was dedicated, discussing the various aspects including the role if animal welfare during natural catastrophes. The meeting noted the similarities among the Pacific Islands such as geographical remoteness and limited resources as well as the absence of significant transboundary animal and zoonotic diseases and a pristine natural environment. However, the increasing demand for meat and fish and the limited on-farm biosecurity requires the raising of awareness of the impact of the emergence of high impact diseases. The participants recognized the urgent need for good emergency preparedness and management as several risk factors have been identified for the introduction and spread of transboundary animal and zoonotic diseases such as tourism, frequent visits of yachts, cruise ships, fishing vessels and other commercial vessels, various importations and in some cases un-regulated cross border movements. The meeting stressed that presently local veterinary services have limited human and financial resources. Furthermore the surveillance and diagnostic capabilities and access to international reference laboratories is limited as well as the availability of extension services to local communities.. Besides livestock, aquaculture is a growing sector in many of the pacific islands and is becoming an important source of income and food for the local population as well as the tourist industry. There is however still a lack of technical expertise in aquatic animals in the region.
The participants appreciated the conducive atmosphere and the possibility to network and share experiences and concerns. The need for continued emergency preparedness and response capacity and the development of appropriate standard operating procedures and a clear chain of command was further stressed. It was also noted that some islands have no veterinarian and that in other veterinarians seconded by their respective government might not ensure any continuity of services after the end of their contracts.