> Veterinary Chiefs Confer On Bird Flu
Chief veterinary officers from Ghana,Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire have attended a two-day cross-border workshop in Sunyani to review their preparedness in the fight against the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, otherwise known as Bird Flu, in their respective countries.
It was also attended by selected farmers and representatives from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as well as other stakeholders.
The workshop, which was organised under the European Union (EU) Avian Influenza Project, was on the theme “Improving effective cross-border collaboration in the management of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Outbreaks in West Africa.”
The project was launched in March this year and since then, a number of activities, including such cross-border meetings had been organised.
The workshop in Sunyani was necessitated by the recent outbreaks of the disease in Nigeria in July, 2007 and Togo in September.
Speaking at the opening ceremony on Saturday, the acting Director of the Ghana Veterinary Service, Dr E. B. M. Koney, noted that although outbreaks of the disease had decreased significantly worldwide in 2008, the recent outbreaks in Nigeria and Togo should be a source of worry to all stakeholders in the sub-region.
“We need to assess our strengths and weaknesses and improve collaboration among neighbouring countries in harmonising our efforts in the control of the disease,” he stressed.
According to Dr Koney, the HPAI had come as an awakening call for the veterinary services of various countries to be strengthened, equipped and supplied with the requisite reagents and consumables, as well as enhance the capacities of veterinary officers.
He declared, “We as heads and workers of the veterinary institute must take full advantage of the prevailing conducive opportunities to improve animal health delivery, including avian influenza control in our countries.”
Dr Koney pointed out that capacity building in the prevention and control of the disease would also enhance the capacities of the participants in the control of other serious diseases.
He suggested that while putting a lot of effort in the control of avian influenza, “we should not lose sight of other important diseases, including transboundary ones, whose control requires concerted efforts and collaboration among countries”.
Dr Koney cited the effective manner in which rinderpest was controlled through the collaborative approach in disease control among neighbouring countries with the support of the EU.
The deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture in charge of Livestock, Mrs Anna Nyamekye, who opened the workshop, said since the absence of the disease in July 2007, the Veterinary Services Directorate of the ministry had focused its resources on a number of strategic prevention and control measures aimed at ensuring early warning, detection and rapid response to combat the disease.
She said considering the importance and key role of biosecurity in the control of animal diseases, the FAO and the United Nations (UN) supported the Veterinary Services with $50,000 to organise a country-wide training for poultry farmers and other stakeholders in the poultry industry on biosecurity between March and December 2007.
“With the recent recurrence of the disease in Togo, we do not need to be complacent at all in our strategic active and passive surveillance through the length and breadth of each country,” she emphasised.
“In Ghana, we are working to strengthen and improve upon the necessary control measures for the effective prevention and control of HPAI and some of them include the improvement of diagnostic capacities of the veterinary laboratories and also equip them with the needed reagents and consumables for the diagnosis of the disease”, she added.
Story by Akwasi Ampratwum-Mensah
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