Avian influenza national plan: Needs and challenges [Archives:2007/1044/Health]
In cooperation with USAID, the Ministry of Agriculture has put in place a national plan to deal with any potential outbreak of avian influenza (bird flu) in Yemen.
The plan requires more than $50 million in order to strengthen disease surveillance and rapid response nationwide. However, both the government and those donors concerned about the issue still should exert persistent efforts so that the plan may be fruitful and fulfill its goals in order to prevent a possible outbreak of the flu, which threatens both birds and humans.
Although the government confirms that bird flu hasn't reached Yemen, several measures and precautions should be taken, particularly after the outbreak reached Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
The current disease surveillance system, as well as the rapid response service, remains in poor condition, particularly in those governorates at risk, such as Taiz, Hodeidah, Aden, Hadramout and Hajjah.
Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation Mansour Al-Houshabi maintains that his ministry is coordinating with the Ministry of Public Health and Population, Civil Service and other government sectors to prepare a joint plan to enhance Yemen's surveillance system and increase its capabilities to contain any bird flu outbreak.
Prepared in May 2006, the plan contains several objectives, topped by strengthening central, regional and community surveillance and investigation capabilities, in addition to providing required centers to ensure rapid response to an outbreak.
The plan also aims to assist in bridging gaps in implementation at the village level, as well as facilitate the involvement of local farming communities to help implement the national plan.
Main considerations of the national plan:
– Strengthening current grassroots capacities for early detection, reporting and responding to a possible bird flu outbreak.
– Local systems should feed into the existing national structure of disease surveillance and reporting, rather than build another monitoring and detection system.
– Providing public information management and launching awareness campaigns to support the production and dissemination of technical documents and farmer teaching materials.
– Providing a program to help farmers properly cope with any outbreak.
The plan's policy statements to be followed:
– Banning backyard poultry in coastal areas.
– Banning backyard poultry around major commercial poultry farms.
– Stamping out is the first line of action against an outbreak.
– Stamping out should be a multi-agency emergency task.
– Following an immunization system only if stamping out has failed to contain the outbreak.
– Providing farmers incentives and compensation.
– Strengthening central surveillance and diagnostic capability, as well as establishing bird flu surveillance.
– Establishing regional avian influenza laboratories.
– Strengthening regulatory enforcement according to Livestock Law No. 17.
– Completing and prioritizing staff training needs.
– Directing action and measures to priority governorates regarding risk and poultry industry loss.
– Following and establishing criteria for any potential declaration of stamping out failure.
– Raising public awareness and strengthening coordination between involved authorities.
– Providing prophylaxis to field staff.
Weak points representing obstacles to the plan are:
– Incomplete surveillance and diagnostic capacities.
– Lack of funds and delayed release of support.
– Shortage of trained staff in concerned sectors and lack of transport means.
– Lack of financial incentives needed for veterinary professionals and other cooperative individuals.
– No specific compensation system exists for those experiencing losses due to outbreak prevention measures.
– More than 95 percent of farms suffer from bio-security.
– Ambulant live markets exist, which makes it difficult to control outbreak.
– Quarantine ports aren't fully functional and public awareness remains low.
– Lack of a reporting system between the private sector and the government.
Additionally, the surveillance process still requires a massive effort in order to enable it fulfill the goals of the national plan. Eleven Yemeni governorates containing 220 districts are considered at risk; therefore, a surveillance center should be provided for every district.
One center is estimated at $165,950 for preparation and equipment, as well as training 440 vets and technicians to be deployed in the districts. Additionally, the plan aims to prepare surveillance centers at the governorate level at a cost of $616,500 per center and provide 18 vets and technicians in the 11 targeted governorates.
Concerning the delay in financial support, Dr. Ghalib Fadhl Al-Eryani, director general of animal resources at the Ministry of Agriculture, revealed that the ministry will present the national plan to the Yemeni Cabinet, which in turn will submit it to those donors concerned about this issue in order to receive the required support.