Cameroon: Gov't, Partners Mobilise Against Avian Influenza

9 February 2009
Edith Wirdze

Excerpts:

Avian Influenza, AI, a virus that has been a threat to poultry and wild birds is forecast by scientists to become a serious threat in human health.
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With limited health infrastructures in most Central African countries an AI outbreak could go undetected for many months, which could be catastrophic to human populations who have little or no immune protection.

It is in this context that a team of experts met in Yaounde on February 5 in an inter-ministerial and needs assessment workshop organised by the University of California Center for Tropical Research, in collaboration with the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative and the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, to diagnose how wildlife personnel could conduct surveillance and response to potential AI outbreaks can be increased as well as improving on local animal health, in the Central African region.

Moderating the workshop, a scholar of the University of California Center for Tropical Research, Dr. Kevin Yana Njabo, explained that his institution works in collaboration with the government of Cameroon. He said the government makes the policy and they collect data, which is treated and results analysed if they are good or bad for the country.

To help improve on the situation, he said, the Ministry of Livestock controls border activities (imports and exports) to limit the AI spread. He lamented the fact that there is not enough capacity or resources. That is why, he said, one of the goals of the workshop is to build capacity in order to help in the struggle.

He urged the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Animal Husbandry, Ministry of Scientific Research, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Forestry, and the Ministry of Communication to come together and coordinate the various research organs. To him, the intention is to train African scientists on the AI technology for use in the country.

Presiding over the ceremony, the Inspector General of the Ministry of Livestock, Dr Oumarou Dawa, lauded the initiative of the organisers and expressed the necessity for close collaboration between the different stakeholders to address the public health risk of AI.
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Workshop participants included experts from the four ministries, representatives from UNDP, WHO, FAO, UNICEF, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Global Viral Forecasting Initiative, GVFI, WWF and Cameroon Biodiversity Conservation Society.

Panellists, who included Dr. Thomas Dietsch, Dr. Roger Fotso, Dr. Damien Anong, Dr. Vincent Tanya, Dr. Oumarou Dawa, Prof. Gervais Andobo, Dr. Noah Noah, Dr. Mathew Lebreton and Dr. Inrombe threw light on the threat of AI pandemic, the human and animal disease' surveillance, it detection, diagnostics and reporting.