FAO in Papua New Guinea

African Swine Fever Preparedness Mission to Papua New Guinea

ASF Team comprising of members from FAO HQ, the PNG FAO country office, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and NAQIA of the Government of Papua New Guinea

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea:The FAO Emergency Management Centre for Animal Health (EMC-AH) conducted a preparedness mission to Papua New Guinea from 7-12 October 2019 in light of the ongoing spread of African swine fever to countries in the region.

The mission was conducted in partnership with the Papua New Guinea FAO country office, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the National Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Authority (NAQIA) of the Government of Papua New Guinea. The EMC-AH quickly deployed a team of experts at the request of NAQIA to provide technical assistance in assessing current ASF programmes and activities to ensure appropriate response preparedness in the event of ASF detection in the country. The mission team was composed of international experts, Drs Maria Romano of the EMC-AH, who served as team leader and risk communications expert, David Williams, Ferran Jori, Hendrik Camphor and David Thomson. Throughout the week, the team worked closely with NAQIA and the FAO country office to draft conclusions and provide recommendations on the steps to take to prepare for a potential ASF incursion.

Papua New Guinea is on high alert following recently reported outbreaks of ASF in the Philippines and Timor Leste especially. Ahead of the mission, the EMC-AH liaised with the FAO country office and NAQIA to identify the areas of expertise that would be of the highest value to the mission. The mission team included experts in risk communication, laboratory and diagnostics, ASF disease, epidemiology, emergency management, and value chain/farm biosecurity.  

In addition to sending a request for assistance from the EMC-AH, the Government of Papua New Guinea has taken proactive steps to prepare for a potential ASF incursion. NAQIA has begun instituting precautionary measures for the disease, and is working to raise awareness about the disease by targeting the live pig and pork production sectors, as well as the general public including international travellers. Providing risk communications support was therefore essential throughout the mission. The Government conveyed to the mission team the high social and cultural value that pigs hold in Papua New Guinea, and the team paid particular attention to this when developing the existing preparedness plans. For pigs on smallholder farms in particular, the cultural value chain is likely much larger than the conventional commercial pork value chain for smallholder pigs.

The mission team travelled with NAQIA representatives and members of the FAO country office to Mount Hagen to visit the Jiwaka Provinical Administration and other stakeholders, and then on to Lae to conduct a series of meetings with expert stakeholders along the value chain.  In Lae, Maria Romano put out a live radio broadcast on the national station along with Martin Paina, advising listeners on behaviours to adopt and actions to protect against ASF incursion or eventual spread. The radio station broadcasts to regional and rural areas who may not have access to other forms of media such as print media or television and therefore is a highly effective channel for reaching the wider community. The broadcast provided an overview of the risk to Papua New Guinea and disease transmission, and included recommendations, such as practicing biosecurity among areas with pigs and not bringing pork or pork products into Papua New Guinea, particularly from ASF-infected countries.

The EMC-AH has conducted six other ASF-related missions in 2019—three preparedness or alert missions and three response missions. The Centre continues to hold regular calls under the ASF Incident Command Group (ICG) that it stood up in June 2019. The ASF ICG serves as a platform for FAO country and regional offices, as well as OIE, to share updates and request support on ASF.

The EMC-AH is grateful to the Australian Government for funding this ASF preparedness mission to Papua New Guinea, and to the OIE for its support.