National counterparts of Avian Influenza Surveillance and Response
Ladies and gentlemen
Good morning to all of you.
First of all, I would like to extend, on behalf of the FAO regional office and on my own behalf, a warm welcome to you all to this Regional workshop for surveillance and response capacities for Avian Influenza. I wish also to express my appreciation to the participants of and contributors to the workshop. Today’s meeting is essentially a follow-up to regional avian influenza surveillance workshops held in 2004. Those consultations resulted in a landmark document – Guiding principles for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza surveillance and diagnostic networks in Asia – which provided directions for our early regional responses to HPAI.
The present workshop will revisit this document. Drawing up experiences and lessons learnt over the past four years, and as best practices prevailing within and outside of the region, we anticipate that the updated “guiding principles” will be more apt and relevant to the ever emerging challenges in control and prevention of HPAI and other transboundary animal diseases.
Ladies and gentlemen,
More than four years have passed since the world faced the first outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza. Since then, bird flu has killed 241 of 382 infected people. Over 200 million birds were infected, culled or destroyed. Despite massive efforts and investments by governments, international organizations and the poultry sector, HPAI has become endemic in many parts of the world and has expanded in geographic scope and to more animal species. In 2003-04, only 10 countries were affected. At present, 61 countries and territories have been affected so far: 24 in Asia, 11 in Africa and 26 in Europe. In parallel, infection spread was reported to different species of domestic and wild birds, and to some mammals such as tigers and cats.
Throughout these years, numerous first hand experiences were gained and lessons learned along with emerging challenges. Lessons that need to be carefully analyzed so that we can finally start turning the tables, and that more sound and effective surveillance approaches and measures are developed for timely responses to disease events.
Ladies and gentlemen,
You are well aware that FAO and its partners have been deeply involved in building and/or rebuilding capacities for national surveillance and outbreak responses through various emergency and technical assistance programmes such as training and workshops, advocacy, public communications and awareness, development of infrastructures and laboratories, institutional strengthening and regional networking. 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 by AI affected and at risk countries have shown promising results, but more is still needed for further improving surveillance and building technical and operational capacities of national veterinary services.
I wish to convey FAO’s long term commitment to fighting against avian influenza and other transboundary animal diseases, and continuing our efforts for and dedication to sustainable regional approaches on TADs.
Bird flu is an animal disease. FAO continues to emphasize that priority should be given to tackle – and win – the fight at source in order to reduce or eliminate the continuing threat to public health. Indeed, as long as HPAI continues to affect significant numbers of animals, it will remain a threat to public health. Having said this, it is crucially important to closely cooperate with the health sector in addressing this situation.
I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the Asian Development Bank, the government of Japan, USAID and partner organizations and agencies for supporting this workshop. The funding support to emergency and development programmes generously provided by donors through FAO to countries in the region has been crucial for the progress made in enhancing capacities to respond to the disease 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.