Avian Flu contingency and UNDP assistance
Colombo, 28 January, (Asiantribune.com): To prepare for and activate a disaster management plan in the event of an avian influenza outbreak in Sri Lanka, UNDP in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has set up a project to create awareness among poultry farmers and the public.
The highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza (HPAI) virus first emerged in 1997. Flocks of wild birds, domestic poultry, and some humans were affected in parts of Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe. The exact roles played by migratory birds in the spread of avian flu to domestic poultry and humans remain uncertain and continue to be debated. Sri Lanka cannot afford to be complacent because a wide range of migratory birds arrive every year from far away lands to their favorite roosting places on the island.
UNDP commissioned the services of an expert consultant Dr.Sarath Arambawela to work with FAO on specific tasks related to the disaster management plan in the event of an Avian Flu epidemic in Sri Lanka. Dr.Arambawela has worked as a government veterinary surgeon in the Department of Animal Production and Health (DAPH), and later as the Project Director of the ADB assisted Livestock Development Project in Sri Lanka.
Under the Avian Influenza project, as a first step a capacity building exercise for the officers of the DAPH was initiated. UNDP provided funds to set up a programme of action to prevent an epidemic and also to handle a crises situation, if Sri Lanka were to face an Avian Influenza & Human Influenza outbreak.
“We have informed the poultry farmers to be watchful of an increase in mortality and if there is a significant drop in the intake of water and meals. Poultry keepers have been asked not to handle sick birds, instead to call a veterinarian immediately,” Those who come into contact with affected birds should wash their hands with soap and water as a first aid,” Dr. Arambawela said.
Further a disaster management plan that has been set up to handle the problem will focus on three major areas. Detailed district maps indicating the numbers of poultry units, categorized as ‘commercial’, ‘smallholder’ and ‘backyard’, and the total poultry population in each Grama Niladari (village officer’s) area.
A register in every government veterinary office will indicate the name and address of each poultry producer and a farm card will be issued to every registered poultry producer, to facilitate payment of compensation in event of mandatory mass culling of farm birds.
Some of the main aspects covered under the currently operational projects are:
* Strengthening of sample collection and laboratory diagnostic activities; production of communication and training material
* Registration of poultry production units and mapping of poultry production and marketing systems
* Organizing district emergency teams and depopulation/decontamination teams and training them further with the assistance of an international consultant; arranging a scheme for compensating owners of the live birds that will have to be culled in case of disease incursion.
* Learning from the experience of countries which had controlled HPAI outbreaks successfully
Apart from these, strict import restrictions and quarantine inspections are undertaken with existing resources, which are to be further strengthened with World Bank assistance. USAID too assists the Department of Animal Production and Health to develop infrastructure and build its capacity to identify and conduct tests in case of an outbreak.
- Asian Tribune -