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Malawi at greater risk of avian flu—FAO, OIE, AU-IBAR Mission

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  • Malawi at greater risk of avian flu—FAO, OIE, AU-IBAR Mission

    A joint mission comprising experts from the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resource (AU-IBAR) that visited the country to assess avian and human influenza situation has discovered that Malawi lacks adequate funding mechanism to cater for disease emergencies.

    The team arrived in Malawi on February 16 with a mission to assess the country in terms of prevention and control measures for avian and human influenza (AIH).

    According to the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) Mission Team Leader, Dr. Luis Filipe Loureiro, the mission carried out extensive consultations with various stakeholders including development partners, United Nations agencies, Programmes and Funds, non-governmental organizations, national authorities and the farming community in selected districts.

    The visiting doctor also explained that the mission came to develop a detailed technical recommendations to strengthen the prevention and response capacity of Malawi to outbreaks of the disease, ensuring consistency with established international standards using guidelines from FAO, WHO and the OIE.

    The rapid appraisal mission is a requirement by the international community for the mobilization of the multi-donor trust funds as well as other development partner’s resources, necessary for the implementation of avian influenza activities for member countries.
    The mission’s findings were grouped into five major components; thus animal health, human health, communications, planning and coordination, and finance/socio-economics—describing them major strengths and constraints.

    On strengths, the team said Malawi has a high level of biosecurity and awareness in large commercial poultry farms; goodwill of some large commercial farmers to support neighbouring farms and train them on biosecurity and disease control strategies helps to boost the national poultry sector.

    On the other hand, the team lamented that Malawi has no measures put in place to control or even to eradicate the disease thereby putting the country and its citizens and animals at a greater risk.
    They also noted that the four main ports of entry into the country—Songwe, Mchinji, Mwanza and Muloza have no animal or human health officers to man and provide collaborative linkage with the local veterinary authorities.

    The mission further says Malawi has no policy (National Livestock Development Policy), and associated strategy, to sustainably and effectively provide an enabling policy environment and services of the livestock sector.

    The mission also discovered that there is a larger number of veterinary professional vacancies in the Ministry of Agriculture.
    “Only six veterinarians in the public service are working of which just two are in field work. There is risk of loss of institutional memory due to brain drain, ageing of key informants and retirements,” says the mission in their report.

    Among others, the mission has recommended that government, through the Ministry of Agriculture of Health, should allocate specific contingency funds that can be easily accessed for control of animal diseases and that there should be other social protection mechanisms like animal insurance, credit and compensation in stamping out programme.
    Malawi is also advised to establish a Secretariat for AHI Communication within Ministry of Information and Civic Education.

    Government should also enlarge composition of the AHI Communications Sub Committee, to tap in relevant University and research departments, NGOs with strong links at community level.