24 March 2017 - The first SAARC EpiNet Forum Meeting was successfully conducted from 27-28 February 2017 in New Delhi, India. The meeting was co-hosted by India and RSU-SAARC, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in close collaboration with the SAARC Secretariat. The meeting was attended by all the Forum members who were officially designated by the respective heads of the Departments/ Chief Veterinary Officers (CVO) in 2016 (except for Pakistan who were not able to designate their focal points and could not attend the meeting either for some unavoidable reasons). The Animal Husbandry Commissioner (CVO), Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries (DAHDF), India attended the whole session of the two days meeting, chairing some sessions as well.
Technical partners from ECTAD FAO RAP, OIE, WHO, EuFMD were represented by their respective key persons to add value to the meeting. The Programme Officer from Skoll Global Threats Fund participated to explore the possibility of supporting the network in the areas of One Health related surveillance activities and capacity building. An officer from SAARC Agriculture Centre (SAC) also participated to share the mandates and activities of the Centre.
Mr Devendra Chaudhry, Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries (DAHDF), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India was the chief guest and delivered a very invigorating and insightful opening address to the gathering covering the significance and importance of the network for the region towards fulfilling the needs and aspirations of the farmers and the general public. He also stressed on the significance of harmonizing the disease reporting systems of the MS and India’s commitment towards the strengthening of the Forum and building collaborations through joint R&D programmes and joint disease surveillance & control programmes. The opening session was also honoured by key people from the DAHDF and the research institutions from India.
Apart from sharing country situations and existing tools/practices/experiences and network activities, three facilitated group work exercises documented the recommendations and outlines of an effective disease outbreak or molecular information sharing protocol; identified broad areas for epidemiology and animal health delivery system capacity building areas including issues related to advocacy tools and mechanism for garnering support from the policy/decision makers in the respective Departments; and also the importance of having proactive plan for emerging disease emergencies and outlines of steps/procedures for developing such a plan.
A facilitated session on the sustainability of the SAARC EpiNet network including the Forum meetings culminated in developing clear action plans on setting up of network Secretariat and maintaining of regular communication of the members through virtual communication via group Skype sessions. Three countries - Bangladesh, Bhutan and Maldives volunteered to explore the possibility of hosting the next Forum Meeting and will consult their respective CVOs before committing to the proposal. The outcome of the decision will be communicated by 01 April 2017. The current host country India, will be the Secretariat till the next meeting when it will be taken over automatically by the next hosting country.