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27.03.2006 Regional News

Security agencies should help monitor poultry products across borders-



Techiman (B/A) March 27, GNA - Mr. Prince Yaw Donyina, Techiman Municipal Chief Executive has called on security agencies at the country's borders to step up surveillance to monitor the movement of poultry products into the country.

He said since the bird flu disease had not as yet been detected in Ghana, surveillance and awareness creation was paramount and all stakeholders had to help disseminate information about the disease. Mr. Donyina made the call at a day's forum

at Techiman organised by the Veterinary Department of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture on the bird flu at the launch of the Municipal emergency preparedness team. The team will help create awareness in the handling and detection of the disease, should it be detected in the country. The Municipal Chief Executive said the government had shown a lot of commitment in sharing information about the disease with the involvement of the security agencies.

He charged the municipal emergency team to intensify the sensitisation efforts to be able to detect the disease and control it, in case it surfaced in the country. Mr. Donyina urged the team not to give wrong information to scare the populace about the disease which may lead to the collapse the poultry industry.

He indicated that emergency response to the virus incursion called for emergency preparedness and planning aimed at developing capacities for early warning and early response to the disease and other animal health, which he said was essential to remove any negative perception about the avian flu.

Dr. Stephen Ockling, Techiman Municipal Veterinary Officer in a presentation on the disease, role of stakeholders and mandates of the municipal emergency preparedness team, said the total population of poultry in the country was about 23 million, with 20 per cent being commercial and 80 per cent being free range.

He said the growth strength for the past 10 years had experienced a steady decline of 0.8 per cent since 1996, indicating that any occurrence of the epidemic would worsen the situation.

Dr. Ockling said migratory birds such as ducks, geese and swans were water birds that were ecologically dependent on wetlands and that some aspect of their annual cycle must be known by all stakeholders and urged the municipal team to be well informed and also to educate the people to avoid creating unnecessary panic among them about the disease. He said the control of the disease would be achieved by reducing the amount of virus circulating in the poultry and on farms and that measures such as movement controls, enhanced bio-security as well as appropriate vaccination should be implemented to create barriers between uninfected poultry and foci of infection.

Dr. Ockling urged poultry farmers to employ bio-security and invest more in veterinary activities to enhance productivity. In a welcoming address, Mr. John Manu, Techiman Municipal Director of Agriculture said the panic and psychological trauma about the news of AI in Nigeria and more recently in Cameroon had caused the citizenry to form emergency preparedness teams all over the country.

Mr. Manu said, organizing the forum was significant for the fact that Techiman, being one of the largest markets in the sub-region, attracted a lot of goods and people from all the neighbouring countries. Nana Owusu Gyare, Akwamuhene of Techiman Traditional Area and Municipal Cultural Officer, who presided asked the participants to contribute positively to the necessary preventive methods to avoid the disease from engulfing the nation. The Municipal Chief Executive later inaugurated the 16-member Municipal Emergency Preparedness Team, with himself as the chairman. Other members were from the Agriculture and Environmental Sub-Committee, Ghana Police Service, National Fire Service, Ghana Education Service, Ghana News Agency, GPRTU, PROTOA, Ministry of Food And Agriculture, CEPS, Traditional Authorities, Immigration Service, local Classic FM and Asta FM radio stations.