Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

OPENING ADDRESS

by

He Changchui
Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

Delivered at the

The Inception Workshop of the FAO-ADB Project:
Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS)
(GCP/RAS/206/ASB)

FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok
21-23 September 2005




Distinguished guests from the participating countries
Dr. de Alwis, Senior Financial Adviser of ADB
Dr. Chaweewan, the Chair of the ASEAN Sectoral Working Group on Livestock
Dr. Abila, SEAFMD Regional Coordinator, representing OIE
Ladies and gentlemen

On behalf of Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO, and myself, I would like to extend a warm welcome to you all to the Inception Workshop of the ADB-funded project on the Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases (TADs) in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

I wish to express FAO’s gratitude to you all for finding time in your busy schedule to come and attend this workshop. I also wish to take this opportunity to thank the Asian Development Bank, which has taken the initiative in making a significant financial commitment in supporting the control of TADs in Southeast Asia, in collaboration with FAO and the participating countries

The importance of TADs cannot be overemphasized. Since the outbreaks of avian influenza in Southeast Asia since late 2003 and early 2004, the world has witnessed the rapid spread of this transboundary animal disease with serious socio-economic impacts. The continuing outbreaks of the disease in several Southeast Asian countries have devastated the poultry industry in the region, and its further spread to Mongolia, Kazakhstan and more recently Russia have raised serious global public health concerns as well. In Southeast and Eastern Asia, nearly 140 million domestic poultry have either died or been destroyed and over a hundred people contracted the infection, of which now 59 people have died, with Cambodia and Indonesia becoming the two new countries with human fatalities. Economic losses to the Asian poultry sector are estimated at around US$10 billion, and despite concerted efforts to control HPAI, the disease continues to spread throughout the region, inflicting further economic losses, and wide-ranging negative impacts on the human population of Asia.

While the spread of avian influenza grabs the world’s attention today, it is important to remind ourselves that transboundary animal diseases have been with us for some time. With a huge and increasing volume of regional and international trade in livestock and livestock products and the rapid movement of large numbers of people across continents through air travel, several emerging infectious diseases are spreading widely over large geographical regions with a wide-ranging impact on the livelihoods of farmers, trade, food safety and public health.

While the economic losses from transboundary animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and classical swine fever (CSF) in Europe have been well documented, it is the newly emerging zoonotic diseases that are causing greater world-wide concern. The bovine spongiform encephalopathy crisis (BSE; mad cow disease) in Europe provides a disturbing example of a serious emerging zoonotic disease moving into new areas by means of trade flows of contaminated meat and bone meal. In 1999, a Nipah virus outbreak in Malaysia destroyed the swine industry while simultaneously creating massive public panic resulting from human fatalities. This virus has now appeared elsewhere in Asia. The 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak infected several hundred people in large parts of South and Southeast Asia, and Canada. The disease took over a year to bring under control, costing the subregion over US$30 billion. Over the last several decades an average of one newly emerging disease per year has been identified, of which 75 percent have been of the zoonotic type. Their emergence also points to the fact that no country, even highly developed ones, can count itself exempt from such diseases.

It is also becoming increasingly apparent that many of the reservoirs of infection are found in the developing world, in particular amongst the lower-income livestock farming segments: the rural poor.

Livestock represents only 15 percent of the agricultural gross domestic product in Southeast Asia, but are a strategic part of the small-farm economy in the region. The demand for livestock products in the region is projected to increase by 3.5 to 4.0 percent annually to the year 2020. This increase—predominantly driven by high-income growth, rapid urbanization, and changes in dietary patterns—termed as ‘the livestock revolution’, will present tremendous opportunities for reducing poverty among poor smallholders by way of improving incomes through commercialization of livestock products.

However, to fully participate and exploit these market opportunities, poor smallholders in GMS countries will have to produce healthy and productive animals. Unfortunately, they are currently constrained by transboundary animal diseases. These diseases kill animals and reduce productivity, threaten livelihoods of poor smallholders, drain public sector resources, hinder efforts to alleviate poverty, and restrict regional and international trade. The morbidity and mortality rates of livestock due to these diseases are often as high as 50–80 percent in many parts of the GMS.

It is now becoming increasingly apparent that in the GMS and other Southeast Asian countries that a long-term capacity in the control of transboundary animal diseases is required in all the affected countries to be able to achieve success. In this regard, this project is timely. The project is focusing on five GMS countries, Cambodia, China (Yunnan Province), Lao People's Democratic Republic, Thailand and Viet Nam. The main unique feature of this proposal is the development of regional cooperation and collaboration among the five GMS countries to address common policy and regulatory issues to control of TAD that are predominantly spread by animal movements across countries in the region. Without regional cooperation, these diseases cannot be controlled.

The project will build on existing activities in the region and aim to integrate them to focus on the three most important trade-limiting diseases: CSF, FMD, and AI. Regional cooperation will foster strong partnership among all the stakeholders and beneficiaries that will include livestock farmers, livestock traders, veterinarians, extension workers, community health service providers, non-government national and international organizations (NGOs), veterinary departments, border control units, and private pharmaceutical companies. The project also aims, for the first time, to engage Yunnan Province of the People’s Republic of China as a key player and partner in the regional consortium for TAD control.

The project will also focus on poor, smallholding livestock communities in the region thus ensuring that poverty alleviation, providing market access, ensuring food security and controlling disease remain the long-term objectives. These objectives are shared by both FAO and ADB and contribute towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals adopted globally in 2000.

The main partners will be the World Organization for Animal Health (known as the OIE), with whom FAO has already developed a long-term vision for the control of TADs globally under the framework commonly referred to as GF-TADs (the acronym for global framework for the progressive control of transboundary animal diseases). The project will also collaborate closely with other donor funded projects notably those funded by JICA, the EU and a number of newer projects coming online from the Governments of Australia, Germany and the United States of America. For the long-term sustainability of the TADs control both technically, financially and politically, the project will also collaborate with the ASEAN Sectoral Working Group on Livestock, building on the partnership that has been forged by the SEAFMD Campaign.

Ladies and gentlemen, the regional project on transboundary animal disease (GCP/RAS/206/ASB) we are launching today is a major milestone for the region as well as the GF-TADs. The project has been approved by the five participating countries and FAO’s major partners, and a formal Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation to Prevent and Control Transboundary Animal Diseases in the Greater Mekong Subregion has been signed at the GMS summit on 5 July 2005 in Kunming, through the initiative of the People’s Republic of China and facilitation by the ADB. This development gives the GCP/RETA project a head-start.

Once again, I thank you very much for your attention and wish you productive discussions and deliberations leading to a successful outcome.