The top veterinary officials of four West African countries are to join forces to battle the possible spread of avian influenza in the region.
Closing a two-day ground-breaking meeting June 5 in Sunyani, a regional capital close to the Ghana-Côte d’Ivoire border, the chief veterinary officers of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo issued a statement calling for better communication and information exchange among countries of the region to control outbreaks of avian influenza.
The four countries will set up a standing committee of the national Directors of Veterinary Services which will meet regularly to exchange disease surveillance intelligence and draw up a policy on the movement of poultry and poultry products within the region.
The committee will also streamline control measures in the four countries, and enhance the capacity of bodies such as the armed forces, customs and excise authorities, police forces and national disaster agencies to participate in avian influenza crisis management and control activities.
The cross-border meeting, the first of its kind in Africa to look for common solutions to the potential threat of the spread of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus across national borders, was hosted by the Ghanaian government with support from the Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Ghana, the FAO Ghana office and FAO headquarters in Rome.
The meeting looked at the current disease situation in each of the four countries and the risks of cross-border transmission, focusing on the current status of border awareness, inspection and transport control, and ways to improve networking for surveillance, including monitoring of border markets.
The Chief Veterinary Officers also discussed sample sharing among laboratories, and compensation, market chain and animal health communication aspects of HPAI prevention and control.
The meeting was facilitated and funded by FAO’s Crisis Management Centre-Animal Health (CMC), which had just completed a rapid assessment to the country following outbreaks of HPAI H5N1 in May in Tema, which lies on the country’s coastline, some 20 km to the east of the capital Accra, and in Sunyani, 400 km northwest of the Ghanaian capital Accra,