Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

WELCOME ADDRESS
by
He Changchui
Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific
Delivered at the

Consultation on the Development of a Global Strategy
for the Progressive Control of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)

FAO, RAP Bangkok 17 – 18 May 2005




Representatives from ASEAN and SAARC
Chief Veterinary Officer of FAO
Participants from countries
Colleagues, ladies and gentleman


It is my pleasure, on behalf of the Director-General of FAO and on my own behalf, to welcome all participants to this Consultation on the Development of a Global Strategy for the Progressive Control of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.

When we received the first notifications of the occurrence of HPAI in the region in early 2004, little did we know that we were in the midst of an epidemic which in the following months hit ten Asian countries and ravaged their poultry industry, causing tremendous economic loss. Almost 200 million birds have died or have been culled during the control exercises. Sadly, according to WHO figures, since late 2003, 89 people have contracted the disease and 52 people have died in Cambodia, Thailand and Viet Nam.

The unprecedented and rapid spread required unprecedented measures. An alliance was forged between the technical organizations WHO, OIE and FAO to jointly address the problem, in cooperation with governments concerned and donor communities.

The Director-General of FAO, through the Organization's technical cooperation programme (TCP), provided US$ 5.6 million for emergency assistance to the infected countries. He created the Emergency Center for Transboundary Diseases which, under the guidance of the FAO Chief Veterinary Officer, coordinated the implementation of the programme. FAO funds, together with support from other donor organizations and countries, permitted implementation of immediate control measures to improve diagnostic capacities and to strengthen veterinary services. FAO experts and consultants assisted countries to combat the disease. Conferences and workshops organized jointly by FAO, OIE and WHO allowed experts from the affected countries to exchange experiences and views as well as to forge policies and strategies to further improve and strengthen surveillance and control activities.

After a period of relative calm in mid-2004, a second wave of outbreaks hit the countries in autumn 2004. This second wave made it very clear that the virus is deeply entrenched in the countries in the region and that control and eradication of HPAI will take years. Continuous new outbreaks in various parts of Asia go in hand with a continued threat of a global human pandemic, which according to WHO would cause the death of millions of people.

HPAI is a transboundary disease and, therefore, great attention was given to strengthening regional collaboration amongst the countries through regional technical cooperation projects. ASEAN, ASEAN+3 and SAARC are the leading organizations in the region. Several meetings have stressed the important role which these organizations can play in supporting avian influenza control activities. FAO fully supports these organizations and we are looking forward to fruitful collaboration in the future. FAO is committed to working as your partner to strengthen technical capacities. The Global Framework for the Progressive Control of Transboundary Diseases – a joint activity of OIE and FAO – is considered the most appropriate forum for the delivery of the programme.

The fact that the virus is deeply entrenched in the poultry population in Asia brings the threat of a possible pandemic with it. The prevention of this pandemic requires substantial financial resources to control the problem at its source, namely in the poultry industry. It has also become very obvious that a long-term commitment is required and that the financial resources needed to maintain control and surveillance programmes are, regretfully, beyond the financial means of a number of countries. If the world is to be protected from a possible pandemic, substantial financial resources will have to be made available to the infected countries to control and eradicate the disease, and to the non-infected countries at risk to protect them from a possible incursion.

During the meeting in Ho Chi Minh earlier this year, participating countries and the donor community concluded that,

“A master coordination plan be prepared with a global vision defining the road map and time frames for the short, medium and long-term priority activities, to be endorsed and supported by individual countries and regional organizations;

Long-term, sustainable funding be sought to support key priorities identified in the outcome of this meeting.”

In response to this request, FAO has prepared a document for your consideration which outlines a Global Strategy for the progressive control of HPAI. The objective of this consultation and the purpose for inviting you here to Bangkok is to review and finalize this document so that it will serve as the road map for future action to control and eradicate HPAI. The document should also give a clear signal to the donor community that there is a coherent approach to the HPAI problem supported by countries, regional organizations and OIE, WHO and FAO. I am looking forward to the result of your consultation.

In closing I wish to stress that FAO is committed to continuing its strong partnership with OIE, WHO and regional organizations as well as with member countries in the fight against avian influenza.

Thank you very much for your attention.