Ladies and gentlemen,
I am particularly pleased to join today the ADB (Indu Bhushan), ASEAN (Azmi Mat Akhir) and WHO (William Aldis) for the press launch of a new regional initiative for the prevention and control of avian influenza in Asia.
Highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in rapid succession in several Asian countries since it was first reported in Vietnam in January 2004, it. Today this bird flu has become widespread, crossing into Europe and Africa. And it is currently endemic in parts of Asia, defying control efforts by national authorities.
At present, China and Viet Nam are running mass vaccination campaigns, having failed to contain the disease by stamping out and/or targeted vaccination. The disease has been well controlled within the large commercial sector in Thailand, but until recently had persisted in the backyard poultry sector. In Indonesia, control efforts relying mainly on vaccination and partial stamping out, has not been successful. AI is currently reported infrequently in Cambodia; Malaysia and India also recently reported outbreaks. A few days ago Myanmar was the latest ASEAN country to join the list of bird flu affected countries, causing an increased concern of the world community.
Summing up the AI situation in Asia, we note that the HPAI virus continues to circulate in the region, threatening the poultry industry, livelihoods and food security of poor farmers and jeopardizing public health. As a result, FAO continues to be seriously concerned about the spread of the disease and the resulting increased socio-economic impact on poor households. Our foremost regional priority in the fight against bird flu is to support developing member countries in the development and implementation of integrated country strategies to prevent and control avian influenza at the source—in poultry.
FAO has played a key role as lead technical agency ensuring coordination and providing technical assistance to affected countries to help control and reduce the spread of H5N1 among poultry – and thus contributing to the prevention of a potential influenza pandemic.
FAO estimated(for the Beijing conference) a global need at least US$130 million in the next 3 years for its proposed activities for coordination and capacity building ($49million), and assistance to infected countries ($26millions) and countries at risk ($38millions) as well as newly infected countries ($16 million). In the Asian region, FAO is seeking supplementary partnerships to further strengthen and support the three sub-regional networks established in 2004, bringing together national diagnostic laboratories and teams undertaking surveillance activities in infected countries in Southeast Asia, East and South Asia.
These regional networks have improved the quality of surveillance and diagnosis by providing technical support to national staff engaged in this work in each country. In addition, the networks have facilitated exchange of information and knowledge and identified strengths and weaknesses in national systems so that support can be focused on areas of need and solutions provided based on shared experience.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Since last year, FAO is working with ADB in several ASEAN member countries on transboundary animal diseases including AI control. The additional $38 million grant project approved by ADB is unique as it provides an enhanced regional facility for the partners to work together in a concerted manner in controlling AI.
ADB’s assistance is very timely in supporting the global effort to control AI in Asia. This is especially encouraging for countries at risk such as Myanmar which has just reported an outbreak of HPAI and to which FAO has already sent its mission and dispatched the first batch emergency assistance equipment.
FAO has established an Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) in December 2004 under the responsibility of the FAO Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO). A decentralized ECTAD unit for Asia was opened just a few days ago at the FAO regional office in Bangkok with the arrival of Laurence Gleeson as the head of the unit. The regional ECTAD unit with ADB grant assistance will work with national animal health and production services and the established regional networks to strengthen disease control activities.
In conclusion, allow me to express FAO’s appreciation for ADB’s rapid decision after the Beijing Conference, and its contribution of US$ 6.5 million to FAO, for strengthening regional capacity and coordination for prevention, detection, preparedness and control of avian influenza at the source—in poultry. I am confident that our partnership will substantially contribute to reduce social and economic disruptions due to avian and human influenza outbreaks in the region.