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14/09/2007

International meeting on avian influenza focuses on long-term planning and future of poultry sectors

This summer, an important event to help guide international and national strategies in improving global and country preparedness for avian influenza was hosted by FAO in Rome. The “Technical Meeting on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and Human H5N1 Infection”, held 27 to 29 June, was organized by FAO, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), with the collaboration of the UN System Influenza Coordinator (UNSIC) and UNICEF. The over 120 participants represented key affected countries, UN agencies, other partner agencies and countries, and the private sector. Jim Hancock of the FAO Investment Centre Division, played a central role in helping FAO’s Animal Health Service plan and conduct the meeting on animal and human aspects of the disease. Presentations and discussions were held on avian influenza risk assessment and the performance of current strategies being used by ministries and international agencies, and on how to improve support mechanisms, including communication and early warning systems.

Several working groups were convened to develop recommendations for future strategies with an emphasis on intersectoral approaches. The meeting recognized that concerted longer term planning is necessary to manage emerging zoonotic diseases like avian influenza. The need for such approaches will have implications in the identification and design of future agricultural sector investment programmes. The Centre was associated with the meeting because it is providing formulation support to avian influenza preparedness and emergency control operations being financed by the World Bank and other international financing institutions. Hancock contributed investment planning experience in assessing socio-economic issues such as livelihood impacts, and in anticipating ways to deal with restructuring in poultry sectors, for example, to improve legislation and livestock services. A final session addressed operational and programming issues and mechanisms, bringing together major donors facilitated by UNSIC and the World Bank. The meeting was highly appreciated and agreements were reached on key priority approaches and actions to minimize the spread of avian influenza and prepare for a potential pandemic.

The final report with conclusions and recommendations has been published on the meeting website, with all background documents and presentations. This report will be an important background document in international agency and country preparations for the International Ministerial Conference on Avian and Pandemic Influenza planned for December 2007 in New Delhi.

More information at : http://www.fao.org/avianflu/en/conferences/june2007/documents.html