Ms Libuse Soukupova, Representative of European Union
Dr Bernard Vallat, Director General of OIE
Dr Gongal, Representative of WHO
Mr Riaz Hamidullah, SAARC Secretariat
Mr Rangkugti, ASEAN Secretariat
Distinguised Guests, Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to extend a warm welcome to you all to the First Meeting of the HPED Steering Committee. I wish to express my special gratitude to the European Union for being a partner with the key international agencies, and providing financial support as a donor to strengthen the capacity of the recipient countries as well as the two major regional organizations, ASEAN and SAARC, to enhance regional cooperation on highly pathogenic and emerging diseases (HPED) in South and Southeast Asia sub-regions. The project would also bring together and facilitate an opportunity to strengthen the collaboration among WHO, OIE and FAO to meet the challenge of transboundary diseases with animal origin which are increasingly threatening human and animal lives and global economy
I also wish to take this opportunity to thank the OIE including its Regional Representation in Tokyo, Dr Shimohira and his colleagues, and my FAO colleagues from Bangkok and Rome for successfully making the arrangements for this meeting to be held here.
This meeting is significant as it becomes a starting point of our past discussions in operationalizing the structure discussed within the FAO/OIE GF-TADs umbrella, and the ‘One Health’ agenda on emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) described at the recent International Ministerial Conference on Animal and Pandemic Influenza meeting in Hanoi in April this year with OIE and WHO as partners. The implementing activities under this HPED structure will strengthen the GF-TADs regional initiatives, and improve the capacity of the regional organizations in supporting regional approaches to control and prevention of TADs and EIDs.
You will recall that the initial GF-TADs framework started in 2002 in response to the FMD outbreaks in Europe and South America. Though only signed with OIE in 2004, it has become a robust framework in addressing infectious diseases as evidenced by the response to the HPAI crisis where the strengths of both the FAO and OIE were exploited in collaboration with national governments and regional organizations.
The ‘One Health’ approach, however, encompasses above and beyond the GF-TADs by addressing drivers of disease emergence, further improvement of communication between the human-animal-and environment interfaces for risk analysis and mitigation, and enhancement of public services to meet societal needs, which include food safety and food security. .
In Asia, important zoonotic diseases have emerged in the past decade and caused serious epidemics in man, such as Nipah Virus disease and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and potentially H5N1 HPAI. There is therefore the possibility of emerging infectious diseases, EIDs, to occur and emergency preparedness capacity at the national and regional levels are a necessity.
The GF-TADs Regional Steering Committee was accepted as an efficient mechanism to manage and coordinate the issues related to these and other TADs problems in the region. Also in this regard the Sub-Regional Meetings were also important. The conduct of the HPED Steering Committee following the style and approach of the GF-TADs Regional Steering Committee Meeting is a good starting point to tackling the control of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) in the region.
The task of coordination however remains a challenge for FAO, OIE and WHO under this EU-funded project. This meeting hopes to address this task of coordinating the activities to fully achieve synergy of actions amongst the three agencies, and to develop partners amongst the member states of the two sub-regions and between the two regional organizations, namely ASEAN and SAARC.
FAO is confident that the working structure will be effectively realized as the momentum and competence is here with the veterinary communities abuzz with the experience of HPAI disease prevention, detection and control activities well groomed since 2004, and collaborative experiences for other infectious high impact diseases in the region.
On the ground, the ECTAD team of FAO is working with governments, private stakeholders and development partners. It has laid down the foundation for an early warning and early response to possible HPED, including HPAI, outbreaks. Country capabilities to respond to outbreaks are continually reviewed and recommendations implemented to make the current country structures more responsive to the prevailing problems and or preventing future crises. Technically, there is more information now on how to control the disease and likewise there is a continuous technical discussion on control options.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The resurgence of FMD and the occurrence of EIDs in the region are unfortunately stretching the resources of the national veterinary services of countries. This situation regrettably still reflects the need to strengthen veterinary services of the region. It is for this reason that this project aims at longer term capacity building particularly to gain improvement of animal disease control planning and field epidemiology work at the regional level.
It is a continuing challenge to maintain the core capacity and the capability of the animal health services to respond to emerging diseases in the future. Hence, country ownership and commitment would be a key issue and the regional organizations like ASEAN and SAARC are expected to provide a strong political support through their regional mechanism to encourage the member countries to maintain such commitment.
Asia is now the most populous region in the world and demand for food, particularly livestock products is expected to rise very rapidly. Accordingly, developing Asian countries now have the world’s highest growth rates of production and consumption of food derived from livestock. Growth in agriculture and food production must continue to feed the Asian and world population. For growth in agriculture and food to continue, an enabling environment in the aspect of improved animal health must be ensured. Such an enabling environment will eventually result in increased farmers’ incomes, food safety, and provide more affordable supplies for poor consumers, all of which help to reduce poverty.
This connection to the farmer must be at the forefront of our discussion today and in the Fourth GF-TADs Steering Committee Meeting that will be commence later in the afternoon. This interaction is vital for maximizing the very real benefits of an improved animal health status.
Finally, I wish to reiterate FAO’s commitment to improving the livelihood of the Asian farmer and promote “One Health One World” Initiative, thus we will continually be involved in meetings like this to ensure improved animal health status and more efficient production in the region. I wish you a fruitful outcome from this meeting.