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Pakistan: Bird flu control programme to be devolved to provinces

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  • Pakistan: Bird flu control programme to be devolved to provinces


    Monday, June 27, 2011
    Bird flu control programme to be devolved to provinces

    By Asad Farooq

    KARACHI: Among several other programmes, being run under the federal government, the National Programme for the Control and Prevention of Avian Influenza (NPCPAI) or Prime Minister?s Special Programme to control bird flu is also going to be devolved to provinces by the end of the outgoing month.

    The devolution of the programme will not only jeopardize the future of the programme but also raise several question marks over the future of several industries and health sector of Pakistan.

    According to experts of bird flu, it is amongst deadliest viruses, which killed tens of millions of people within the last century. The most hazardous feature of this type of virus is that it can develop chemical chaining in it, resulting in to enable it become harmful for other species. For example, the bird flu virus named H5N1 was derived from another type of Avian Influenza virus H1N1 generally known as swine flu.

    Similarly, Avian Influenza virus Type ?A? H9N2, which is now harmful for birds, particularly poultry sector but if it is not controlled it would develop ability to harm human beings and other creatures.

    The programme is being run under the federal government. Under the programme blood and other samples are being collected from across the country and are examined at a laboratory, having Bio Security Level 3, at Islamabad. It is pertinent to mention here that the laboratory is only one that is recognized by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) in Pakistan and the region. On the basis of examination, OIE issues a declaration of bird flu country for every three months.

    If the programme is devolved than unfortunately provinces have no lab, having equipments to isolate the bird flu virus, nor have any lab of standards, internationally required to perform such type of test. Ultimately the devolution of the project, would result in deprivation of bird flu free country declaration from OIE to Pakistan.

    The programme not only collects samples but also culls and disposes off affected flocks of poultry, incase of any out break. After disposing the flocks, compensation is also granted to the farmers, by the project.

    In this regard when contacted NPCPAI Provincial Project Coordinator Dr Ali Akbar Soomro conformed that the province has no ability to isolate the virus because of BSL3 lab?s absence, nor have sufficient funds to perform all above mentioned functions. He said that the provincial authorities had recommended for running the programme under the federal government because of the sensitivity of the programme, technical aspects and provision of required facilities. He further said that being public servants we could only submit recommendations and they did so.

    He was of the view that the programme should run under the federal government so as to continue its ongoing mode. He further said that due to working under the umbrella of one project authorities at each province used to aware of the developments in regard with programmes across the country. He further added that prevention and control of bird flu is a so much larger subject that provinces would have to establish separate departments for it.

    It is pertinent to mention here that the steering committee for bird flu had suggested the federal government to continue the programme under the federal government because technically the provinces could not run the programme having federal mandate, besides the fact that provinces have no capability to run such programme. Federal Planning and Development Division had also earlier decided at a meeting to continue the programme, due to its sensitivity and importance, under the federal government.

    Besides this the Adviser to Prime Minister on Development Budget Muhammad Asif Shaikh had also affirmed earlier to continue the ongoing capacity of the programme but he later announced to devolve the programme through a notification.

    The federal government is going to devolve the NPCPAI in a situation when recently bird flu outbreak has been confirmed in Pakistan?s neighboring country Iran and World Health Organization has issued a warning to Pakistan for Swine Flu, which is a type of bird flu. Besides Iran, India is also affected from the bird flu. Apart from ongoing situations, upcoming months would bring more severity to the issue as in the commence of the Winter season about 150 bird species migrate to the reign, which are considered as the core cause of bird flu and other viral diseases.

    Another segment, which is going to be affected with the devolution or expecting suspension of the project, is who engaged in the business of pets. Australian parrot which?s pair was being sold by Rs 70 to Rs100 before a few years is now being sold by Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,500 due to increase in market demand as it had been restarted to export with the blessing of the programme. If OIE imposes sanctions on the country in regard with livestock export then the industry of pets would collapse again.

    After surfacing outbreak of bird flu in Iran and decadence of red alert in Pakistan by WHO, NPCPAI has called an emergency meeting in the capital to be held on Tuesday, June 28. Poultry sector, facing a dilemma, became split on the issue of NPCPAI?s devolution. Major stakeholders of the poultry business or exporters are in the favor of the programme?s continuity under the federal government so as to avoid ban on their export business by OIE, while those, which belonged to medium level of the business or deal with local markets were of the view that the project should be completely banned as it had provided the sector with severe losses.

    When asked Dr Kaiser Bengali, Adviser to Chief Minister Sindh on Planning and Development about the future of bird flu and other devolved projects, he said that it was a baseless imagination that provinces were unable to run the devolved projects and was tantamount to under estimate the provinces. We would run all the devolved programmes, he vowed.