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East African Community: ‘ready to handle bird flu’

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  • East African Community: ‘ready to handle bird flu’


    EAC ‘ready to handle bird flu’
    By ZEPHANIA UBWANIPosted Thursday, March 26 2009 at 20:17

    East African Community Health ministers have approved a plan of action to contain bird flu, a deadly viral disease likely to break out in the region.

    To assess the level of preparedness and response to the impending outbreak, EAC will conduct field simulation exercises at various border areas in its five-member states.

    The first cross-border exercise will take place in Kenya’s and Uganda’s border districts in May followed by others in October.

    A total $233,561 (Sh18,684,880) will be spent on the exercise, which will also cover other human and animal communicable diseases.

    Kagera is the only region in Tanzania that will be involved in the exercises as are Muyinga and Eastern provinces of Burundi and Rwanda respectively.

    At the Kenyan and Ugandan borders, districts to be covered by the regional plan are Busia, Teso and Tororo, all straddling the border of the two states.

    Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda Health ministers endorsed the plan at the end of the fourth meeting of the EAC Sectoral Council on Health which coincided with the third EA Health and Scientific Conference.

    According to EAC principal health coordinator Stanley Sonoiya, the European Union will disburse euro 200,000 (S21,600,000 at current rate) through the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation for the field exercises.

    “This exercise is the culmination of the EAC Avian and Pandemic taskforce activity to assess the cross-border level of preparedness to the impending outbreak,” he said on Wednesday.

    The taskforce would be required to assess the level of preparedness to contain the outbreak at cross-border areas as well as identify gaps and challenges.

    It would also be expected to inform stakeholders of the expected response/measures in the event of such outbreak and to support national district teams to contain the pandemic.

    No case of the bird flu has been reported in East Africa so far but an outbreak in neighbouring Sudan has been a cause of concern in the region.

    “Our field surveillance systems must be bolstered if we are to fully prepare for the looming threat,” warned Dr Nyamajeje Weggoro, EAC director of productive and social sectors in Arusha last December during the official launch of the euro 3 million (Sh324 million) preparedness plan against the disease.

    The highly pathogenic avian influenza is reported to have wiped out 150 million chickens and killed more than 70 people in various parts of the world, mainly South East Asia, in the past four years.