FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Asia better prepared through coordinated efforts to fight transboundary animal diseases

15/07/2014 Bangkok, Thailand

The Asia-Pacific region is making good progress in the fight against transboundary animal diseases, FAO announced today.

Five years after its establishment in Bangkok, the European Union funded Regional Cooperation Programme on Highly Pathogenic Emerging Diseases (EU-HPED), collaboratively implemented by FAO, WHO and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), has provided significant support to enhance capacities of countries in the region in their response to highly pathogenic and emerging diseases. 

The FAO component of the EU-HPED programme was initiated in 2009 to help ASEAN and SAARC member countries deal with high impact infectious diseases, including foot and mouth disease and avian influenza, such as H5N1 and more recently H7N9. Because these diseases can spread easily across national boundaries, a coordinated effort between countries was seen as essential. To date, FAO has trained some 1082 livestock professionals from 18 countries in Asia.

“The programme as we see it today has been a success,” said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific. “This initiative has played a significant role in making the region better prepared against the threat of transboundary animal diseases.”

“In both sub-regions, Southeast and South Asia, a functional Regional Support Unit (RSU) has been established for ASEAN and SAARC,” Konuma explained, noting the establishment of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre on Animal Health and Zoonoses (ACCAHZ) and the SAARC Regional Epidemiology Centre (REC).

Konuma’s comments were made during the EU-HPED’s annual steering committee meeting, the last of its kind before the programme is turned over to the two regional organizations for sustainability.

The EU-HPED programme operates within the Global Framework for Prevention and Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases (GF-TAD), overseen jointly by FAO and OIE, which is also holding meetings in Bangkok this week. FAO’s involvement and support allows for prevention and protection through training of veterinarians and community animal health workers and timely responses by teams of experts in times of threats and crises. 

“The recently experienced animal disease crises brought about by emerging pathogens have provided a clearer understanding of the benefits to the international community of applying the appropriate animal health policies and programmes in order to safeguard public health and ensure food safety, food security and livelihood,” Konuma said. “FAO’s unique mandate of broad technical and operational capacity, outstanding expertise relating to normative work and production of global knowledge products, as well as a solid decentralized office network worldwide make all these initiatives possible.” 

Konuma noted that through the GF-TADs mechanism and structure, the governance of animal health systems in both the public and private sectors can be improved and, in the process, be the most effective response to address livestock diseases.  However, in order to fully achieve this, the GF-TADs mechanism must include and/or encourage other partners to get involved to ensure coherent and relevant plans meet the needs and activities of partners.

“As it is, the threat of HPED is evolving, driven by a variety of factors, and this requires continued vigilance and more work to give us the capability to prevent and respond appropriately to the threats,” Konuma said. “Bringing together people, countries, institutions and donors has resulted in a winning combination of technical excellence, partnerships and collaboration.”   

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