AfDB Supports Avian Influenza Emergency Plan in West Africa

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Tunis, 5 April, 2006 – The African Development Bank has approved a grant of US$500,000 in support of  initiatives to prevent the possible spread of Avian Influenza in Niger and six other countries in West Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ghana and Togo), which brings the total approved to US$3.5 million.

The grant will be used to help finance the Bird Flu emergency Plan and enhance the level of preparedness in combating it in the event of an outbreak in the seven countries.  It will also be used to help strengthen national capacity to maintain functional laboratories and prepare long-term strategic plans and programmes to contain and control the pandemic should there be an outbreak.

The Animal health and human health components of the campaign will each be supported with lump sums of US$300,000 and US$200,000, respectively. The Animal health component will provide awareness and sensitisation campaigns and information dissemination to farmers, supply of chemicals and equipments for screening poultry and prevent the flu from spreading in event of outbreak. It will also provide protective clothing for veterinary personnel and purchase vaccines.

The Human health components will strengthen human disease surveillance and diagnostics capacity.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa region ((WHO-AFRO) will be responsible for implementing the human aspects of disease control and prevention of the emergency plan. The African Union-Inter-Africa Bureau for Animal resources (AU-IBAR) will manage assistance for the control and prevention in animals. Both organisations will work with governments and other stakeholders to implement the activities.

Avian Influenza is viral infection that has the ability of infecting human beings who come in contact with infested birds or in an environment where the virus is present. The alarming rate at which the Flu has spread from Asia through Europe to Africa has made experts to classify some neighbours of Nigeria and Niger (where the deadly H5N1 strain has been found) as high risk countries. These include Chad, Cameroon, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso and Ghana.

Since the end of 2003, there has been an evolving epidemic of the H5N1 in East and South Asia where over 150 million chickens have either died from the disease or have been culled. The total economic loss in the region due to the flu is estimated at nearly US$ 10 billion. About 150 persons have, worldwide, contracted the deadly H5N1 virus from direct contact with infected domestic birds and about half of them have died from H5N1 respiratory infection.

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