Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cambodia Launches New Bird Flu Project

BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

The Royal Government of Cambodia launched a US$11 million avian and human influenza control and preparedness project in order to curb the spread of bird flu and protect poultry farmers from financial loss in the event of an outbreak.

The project, sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Ministry of Health, and the National Committee for Disaster Management, aims to fund rapid response and diagnosis of outbreaks as well as raise awareness of the disease.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said the project launch demonstrates the government’s willingness and commitment in fighting against bird flu and reducing poverty in Cambodia.

“We have to prevent bird flu and educate our people about it regularly before it kills people and poultry,” Hun Sen said at the launching ceremony on March 16. “We were successful in preventing bird flu only after we culled large amounts of sick poultry, but we have good cooperation with the neighboring countries, who exchange information with us to prevent avian influenza outbreaks.”

He said the effective prevention will help reduce poverty and promote sustainable development in Cambodia.

“We have to join together to prevent the diseases that are ruining social order and hurting economic development,” Hun Sen said. “I urge all local authorities to work in close cooperation with neighboring countries Vietnam, Laos and Thailand to exchange information about bird flu outbreaks and prevent the spread of the virus across borders.”

Hun Sen called on all relevant government ministries and institutions to cooperate, work hard and fulfill their duties in implementing the project. He encouraged them to use the Rectangular Strategy to monitor the evolution of the disease, minimize the possibility of the new outbreaks and natural disasters, promote sustainable developments and reduce poverty in Cambodia.

“I would like to appeal for the United Nations and development partners to continue to contribute resources of spirit, equipment, funds, knowledge, experience and technology to reduce the dangers of bird flu in Cambodia as well as other countries in Asia,” he said.

Nhim Vanda, Senior Minister and First Vice President of the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), said the project will be funded by the International Development Association (IDA) with US$6 million, the Japanese government with US$3 million and the European Union with US$2 million.

Vanda said the main purpose of the project is to reduce and limit damage to poultry production and prevent human death in Cambodia from bird flu.

He emphasized that last year, with financial support from AuAIDS and the National Committee for Disaster Management in collaboration with Ministry of Health, local authorities and the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a pilot project for avian and human influenza control and preparedness in Siem Reap province.

The project has been successfully implemented and could be used as model in other cities or provinces in Cambodia, Vanda said.

He said based on working experience and the pilot project implemented in 2008, the Cambodian government will be able to monitor the evolution of the disease, minimizing the possibility of new outbreaks, and respond to a possible resurgence of the disease in future.

Stephane Guimbert, Acting Country Manager of the World Bank in Cambodia, said that highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 virus remained entrenched in a number of the countries in Asia, including China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh. He said the virus continues to cause serious disease in poultry and humans, especially in the winter.

“As long as H5N1 virus circulates, there is a risk of emergence of a strain of the virus capable of transmitting easily between people, leading to a human influenza pandemic. Cambodia and all other countries must be prepared for such an event,” he said.

Regarding the avian and human influenza control and preparedness project, Guimbert said the overall goal is to support implementation of the Cambodia National Comprehensive Avian and Human Influenza Plan through a multi-sectoral approach designed to minimize the threat posed to humans and poultry sector by AHI infection in Cambodia, and to prepare for, control and respond to an eventual human influenza pandemic.

“Cambodia remains at risk of having more poultry cases in future. Despite the successes of the public awareness campaigns, cross species infection from poultry to humans is likely to recur,” he said. “Excellent work addressing the avian influenza problem in Cambodia has already been conducted by various donors. However, this work has also highlighted a number of gaps that remain to be filled, including issues related to the capacity of veterinary services.”

Guimbert said the project is under the responsibility of three implementing agencies that play a vital role in the national response and control system: the National Committee for Disaster Management, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Health.

He continued to say that the project provides additional financing to strengthen the capacity of the implementing agencies, with the objective of achieving an effective and efficient performance for the duration of the project. In addition, it is expected to improve the level of inter-institutional coordination to respond to the threat of AHI and other diseases.

He added that the technical contributions from the WHO and the Food Agriculture Organization will play a significant role in this institutional building process and he is confident the project launch will be a success. ////

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