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Prevention and Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases: FAO experts define scope of future work in Asia


22 May 2015 - FAO technical and operational officers working within the Emergency Center for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) met in Bangkok, Thailand from 12 to 15 May 2015 to review together ECTAD’s goal and objectives and devise a strategy for the coming five years. Forty delegates attended the meeting, including officers from eight countries in Asia where ECTAD projects are active (Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Nepal, Viet Nam). Also present were officers from the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAP) and FAO headquarters, as well as representatives of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat. This was the 9th meeting of its kind, keeping up a tradition since 2007. The annual meetings provide an important opportunity for staff to interact, exchange ideas and develop a common understanding of the complex issues and challenges in the Region. The motivation and focus of each meeting evolved over the years: the very first meeting (Bangkok, 2007) was held to discuss the Asia Regional Programme for prevention and control of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI); the last meeting (Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2014) was a large gathering that also included staff from other regions and addressed emerging pandemic threats in general, including avian influenza.

This 9th annual meeting was led by the ECTAD Regional Manager Wantanee Kalpravidh and her Deputy Peter Black, who steered participants through a future planning process using the foresight methodology. “Foresight is a generic approach that aims at stimulating participants to think ‘outside the box’.” says Dr Black “By applying this method we hope to increase the range of strategic options, available to us right now or imaginable to exist in future, that will help us to effectively address future threats and challenges. This thinking process also leads to identifying opportunities, which otherwise might be missed.”

Main objectives of the meeting were to decide on key elements of the draft ECTAD Regional Strategy 2016 to 2020, with a particular focus on emerging pandemic threats; and to harmonize technical planning and budget allocation processes across the country projects.

To frame this, scene-setting presentations covered (i) a historical perspective on the ECTAD/RAP Programme, (ii) ECTAD vision and alignment with the five FAO Strategic Objectives, (iii) regional livestock sector trends, (iv) an overview on priority diseases and current threats, (v) the role of wild birds in HPAI introduction and spread, and (vi) country overviews presented by team leaders from the eight Asian countries that were represented at the meeting. Dynamic changes were highlighted as countries in the region are undertaking major infrastructural development projects. Economic development brings increasing demand for animal-derived food (meat, eggs and dairy products) and concomitant risks from increased people movement due to urbanisation, tourism and migrant workers. It is well recognised that several human pandemic disease threats spilled over from animals in Asia. Risk factors and hotspots for disease emergence were discussed.

Building on the meeting outcomes, the strategy for ECTAD in the Asia-Pacific region for the next five years will now be developed. The meeting defined and agreed the ECTAD-Asia goal, objectives and activities under ‘PACT’ headings, that is, Partnerships, Advocacy, Capacity Building and Technical Support. A clear strategy and renewed awareness of FAO’s many institutional strengths and the strong team-building that took place at the Bangkok meeting bode well for ECTAD-Asia’s continuing pivotal role in animal health in the region.

 

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Meeting participants discussing ‘hot spots’ for disease emergence in the Asia region (©FAO/Guo Fusheng)

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