Emerging infectious diseases (EID) and pandemics in humans and animals represent considerable threats with social, economic and health implications. South East Asia has been on the forefront of potentially pandemic viral mutations and infections, including H1N1 influenza 09/ Avian flu and H5N1.
These emergent diseases have shown evidence of continued expansion over the past decades, with the lack of immediate treatment and knowledge, and the fast rate of transmission presenting a challenge to the health of the health care authorities across the world (AusAid, 2012). The economic losses resulting from Bird Flu for instance, has already reached $52 billion in a period of four years since 2006, resulting from losses in incomes, health care expenditure. Australia has since dedicate upwards of $200 million over the past decade to control the possibility of pandemics, emerging and re-emerging diseases including pandemic and influenza preparedness in Asia Pacific (AusAid, 2012). These efforts have comprised upwards of $52 million of AusAid’s expenditure over the previous five years, geared at boosting pandemic preparedness.
The role of animals as carriers of potentially infectious viruses, bacteria and other disease pathogens has presented increasing threats, perhaps best evidenced by the most recent Avian flu outbreak in South East Asia. In order to help build the capacity of the Frontline countries for Avian flu, AusAid has implemented a multinational project in the Asia Pacific, geared at building the capacity of eight countries including Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia (ASEAN, 2011). The project seeks to help the individual countries to boost veterinary services, laboratory capacity and networking among health authorities in the region. The project objectives have sought to specifically target SARS, Swine Flu and HPAI, which has heavily affected the region during the past decade, while at once helping increase awareness among governments on the important role of veterinary services not only by governments, but equally crucially, by donors and livestock industries.
The project commenced in September 2007 and although it was scheduled for completion three years since then, it was further extended to into the year 2013, with a different countries meeting the set deadlines at specific . In order to ensure efficiency and expertise in the project, the implementation was carried out by the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE). The OIE also took on the role of procuring laboratory components from the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (ILRI, 2008).
Other Similar Projects
Similar projects to
- (i) help boost the preparedness of health authorities in the event of emergent diseases
- (ii) boosting veterinary services in order combat animal to human disease mutation and
- (iii) combat Avian flu have been proposed, implemented or under implementation in the region and elsewhere in the world.
The United States Department of Agriculture for instance has rolled out a $5 million program to encourage Avian Influenza Extension and Research, coupled with further projects to promote awareness among the American citizens to report sightings of dead birds and seek medication as soon as symptoms for the disease develop. The department has also funded the National Poultry Improvement Plan H5/H7 LPAI Monitored Program, encourages the random screening of carrier fowls and domestic animals for the potentially dangerous disease pathogens (Freeman, 2010). This effectively helps to boost the International community and the American citizens that surveillance measures are in place, which subsequently helps reduce panic in the event of outbreaks of disease (EMPRES, 2010).
In Sub-Saharan Africa, AusAid has implemented a projected dubbed “Understanding the epidemiology of African swine fever: as a prerequisite for mitigation of disease impact on pig keeping in East Africa”, which is geared towards ensuring that pig husbandry practices remain safe for the human health. The project is being implemented in collaboration with The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) as well as Biosciences Eastern and Central Africa (BECA). The swine flu cycle is heavily dependent on pigs, and the project sought to ensure that such cycles are disrupted, and if any, they are not transmitted through the food chain to other animals and humans (AusAid, 2012). The mutation of the virus in impoverished African countries could prove potentially hurtful to the health and populations, and it is critical, and this project seeks to create capacity in the identification, stopping and preventing the outbreak of the disease.
The Association of Asian of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has equally implemented several projects to boost the region’s preparedness to Highly pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). The projects have ranged from awareness creation, screening and testing of animals for the pathogens and vaccination and stamping out, establishment of zones that are disease-free, implementation of disease containment measures, constant surveillance and information sharing. In Thailand for instance, which also benefited from AusAid’s veterinary services capacity building, the ASEAN implemented two separate projects to boost the country’s diagnostic capacities (Thackher, 2008). The Association has also collaborated with other bodies and institutions, including the Asian Development Bank Grant Project for fighting Avian & HPAI in Asia pacific and Asia regions, which also benefitted from a $10 million grant from Tokyo.
Japan has also pledged a further $70.8 million dollars, which has been deposited with the Japan-ASEAN integration Fund, to help in the funding of varied programs to boost surveillance, awareness creation and other projects that would limit the ability of emergent and re-emrgent diseases to break out and cause widespread health and economic difficulties in the region and the rest of the world. The ASEAN has also implemented public health programs, including the bolstering of the region’s capacity to coordinate responses to disease outbreaks in Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand among other regions in the Asia (ASEAN, 2011).
Nature of the Project and Progress
The major component of the project, in line with multiple other projects is to raise awareness among the general population and governments,on the importance of veterinary services. This will in turn spur governments and other NGOs in funding similar projects, with the aim of bolstering the veterinary services and facilities. In addition, the project sought to emphasize the purpose of OIE in the region, its standards and their importance as a tool in helping with the strategic planning and evaluation of projects to boost veterinary services (Keeves & Watanabe, 2003). Other than raising awareness, the project also sought to directly or otherwise improve the technical capability of countries in which the projects were implemented with a focus on four critical areas, including communications, legislation, avian influenza lab quality assurance and emergency management. In order to accomplish this, the OIE and the project implementation team based in Bangkok have, or intended to achieve among others:
- (i) Host/facilitate capacity building workshops on communications, legislation and prepare for emergencies and avian flu outbreak preparedness. These workshops would bring together major health and veterinary services specialists from all the participating countries for specialist training, annual reporting, comparison of information and development of regional strategies and specific activities/country work plans (ASEAN, 2011).
- (ii) The project was to seek to brief government and other high level officials in order to encourage increased engagement with OIE, promote formal evaluations of veterinary services by OIE and general support for the project (EMPRES, 2010).
- (iii) These will be coupled with presentations geared at strengthening vet services and general education through national seminars that would include government veterinary officials, private vet associations, livestock as well as other industry officials and academics in the respective fields.
- (iv) National vet conference presentations aimed at boosting awareness on OIE’s role
- (v) Facilitation of vet services evaluation and gap analysis in all the participating countries, besides liaising with regional, national and global donors and organizations to ensure coordination in the event of disease outbreaks.
Assessment of Importance and Implementation
One important aspect of this project is the focus on…