Dr Solomon Benigno, Dr. Jintana Sriwongsa and ASEAN colleagues,
Dr Tereque Muhammad, Dr. Ibrahim Zuhuree and SAARC colleagues,
Dr Hans Schoof from the European Commision
Colleagues from OIE, WHO, AusAID, USAID, World Bank, and USDA
Colleagues from FAO,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very pleasant good morning to all of you.
First of all, on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, I wish to extend a warm welcome to you all to the Third Meeting of the Steering Committee of the Highly Pathogenic Emerging and Re-Emerging Diseases Programme being held here in Bangkok.
There has been an increasing awareness of an importance of highly pathogenic emerging and re-emerging diseases (HPEDs) in animals. These diseases could have direct impacts to animal health, and potentially become zoonoses, which also affect human health. Equally important, the disease could result in social and economic disruptions, as well as negative impacts on livelihood and poverty reductions to those countries and areas that are affected. In Asia, we have witnessed many examples in the past decade, with the emergence of Nipah Virus Encephalitis, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and more recently highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) subtype H5N1.
Many parts in Asia have been shown to be the hotspots of HPEDs. While HPEDs may emerge in any one of the countries in the region, their socio-economic and health impacts can be geographically widespread. Moreover, prevention and control of HPEDs is a regional, international, and global public good. Therefore it is important that regional and international organizations are working together and invest in building capacity to deal with HPEDs.
Ladies and gentlemen,
You are well aware that FAO and its partners have been deeply involved in building and/or rebuilding both national and regional capacities through various emergency and technical assistance programmes. Together, we have made considerable headway towards improving and enhancing national animal health and veterinary services, and building up the necessary inter-country cooperation network. Intensive efforts have shown promising results, but more is still needed for further improving technical and operational capacities in the region.
I wish to convey FAO’s long term commitment to fighting against highly pathogenic emerging and re-emerging diseases, and continuing our efforts for and dedication to sustainable regional approaches on HPEDs in partnership with all stakeholders.
I take this opportunity to praise efforts of ASEAN and SAARC and their member countries in addressing concerns on HPEDs through the establishment of regional coordination mechanisms (RCMs), which are conceptualized under the GF-TAD umbrella. FAO currently hosts the Regional Support Units for ASEAN and SAARC, with majority of staff from ASEAN and SAARC member countries. This will directly strengthen capacity in ASEAN and SAARC, and prepare the path to fully functional RCMs.
I wish to also express my gratitude to the European Union for their support to improve regional capacities to prevent, control and eradicate HPEDs. The funding support to this unique development programme generously provided by the EU through FAO and the implementing partners in the region has been crucial for the progress made in enhancing capacities to respond to HPEDs threats. Indeed, continued support to the region from donors and partners will be equally crucial and essential for sustaining the efforts and facing ever increasing challenges at global, regional and national levels.
We highly value our inter-agency collaboration among OIE, WHO and FAO through one health approach and wish to thank them for the continued collaboration and team work. I also wish to convey our sincere appreciation to our strategic partners such as USAID, AusAID, World bank, USDA for the continued strong partnership with FAO to combat with the diseases and attain our shared goals.
Before closing , I thank all participants for sparing their valuable time to attend this important meeting. With these few words, ladies and gentlemen, I wish the meeting all the best and all success in its deliberation.