Avian Influenza Response Programme

In August 2006, FAO launched the Central Asia AI Regional Network Project supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The Regional Network aims to prevent and control HPAI across the region and includes nine countries, namely: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The network, in line with the FAO/OIE Global Strategy for the Progressive Control of HPAI aims to strengthen the capacity for generating and sharing HPAI disease intelligence and to build up common and shared approaches to deal with HPAI incursions both in the domestic and wildlife sector. The Central Asia AI Regional Network, besides providing assistance at Regional level, will also be able to support activities at national level as additional link to on-going or planned national projects or regional programmes being developed by FAO or other stakeholders.
The implementation of the Central Asia Regional Network is in line with the resolutions of a two-day conference (co-sponsored by Asian Development Bank) on Avian Influenza Control and Human Pandemic Preparedness and Response held in Almaty (Kazkhstan) on 12-13 June 2006 during which it was recognized the urgency to strengthen regional collaboration.

The Asian Development Bank funded project supports the different activities developed by the project in Afghanistan such as the surveillance plan implemented by FAO in the regions where outbreaks occurred, such as the strengthening of the central veterinary laboratory in Kabul through equipment supplies and through capacity building. The latter has brought several trainings and workshops for the staff of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) as well as to other stakeholders.

Recently, a regional surveillance workshop was held from 27 February until 7 March 2007 on surveillance both on domestic and wild birds in Ankara, Turkey. Following the February 2007 outbreak, a two-day training workshop took place on 18-19 March 2007. It focussed on several aspects related to bird flu: epidemiology, pathology, bio-security and was attended by 80 participants (provincial veterinarians, poultry farmers, Ministry of Public Health’s staff, and Customs staff). The training was done in consultation and in cooperation with MAIL, USAID, European Commission, UNICEF, WHO and the Ministry of Public Health.

In addition, during spring 2007, the surveillance staff in Afghanistan was trained by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) on wild bird surveillance and recognition. WCS has facilitated two days of classroom introduction and geography, identification skills and equipment introduction, and will facilitate 10 days of field work during the next migration period. The migratory season for species such as herons, cranes, storks, many species of water birds, harriers, kestrels and several other migratory species is in spring (April-May) and fall (September-October). The beneficial impact of the activities and support described above has been proved during the recent re-occurrence of HPAI in 2007 with a significant improvement in terms of early detection and early response.

Recently, the FAO Representative, Mr Tekeste Tekie, met the Country Director, Mr Brian Fawcett, of the Asian Development Bank in Afghanistan. Common interests were expressed in different programmes where the two organizations are working at the moment. Avian Influenza programme is one of these programmes, but the collaboration could be extended to other programmes.

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