Brussels, 4 November 2005
Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, will visit Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, during an official tour of South East Asia from 6-16 November. Avian Influenza, which has been endemic in parts of the region since 2003, will be high on the Commissioner’s agenda during his trip. He will meet with senior leaders and ministers to discuss the current avian influenza situation in each country and the measures being taken by the national authorities and international partners to address the problem. Other issues that Mr Kyprianou will be discussing during his 10-day trip include food safety and Sanitary and Phytosanitary issues (SPS), and certain public health challenges such as AIDS.
Speaking ahead of his visit, Commissioner Kyprianou said: “I am pleased to have the opportunity to visit South East Asia to understand first hand the dimension of the avian influenza problem there and to emphasise to my counterparts the EU’s commitment to supporting the region in its fight against avian influenza. The EU recognises that, no matter where it strikes, avian influenza is a global problem that calls for a coordinated global response. We will do everything we can to help the countries of South East Asia in this regard. Next week’s conference in Geneva on avian influenza provides an important opportunity to identify the global needs and the resources that can be made available.”
Commissioner Kyprianou’s first stop will be in Vietnam, where he is due to meet Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat and Health Minister Tran Thi Trung Chien, amongst others. This will be an opportunity for him to discuss the Vietnamese National Control and Prevention Plan for avian influenza, and the EU contribution in the co-ordinated international approach to assisting Vietnam on avian influenza. The Commissioner’s schedule in Thailand includes meetings with Thai Agriculture Minister Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, the Public Health Minister Mr. Phinij Jarusombat and representatives of the FAO and WHO. He will also visit a chicken factory in the Saraburi Province in Central Thailand, and a shrimp farm and processing plant in Phuket. Commissioner Kyprianou will spend a day in Cambodia where he will meet his counterparts, before arriving in Jakarta on November 14th for meetings with the Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari and the Minister for Marine Affairs and Fisheries Freddy Numberi, amongst others. As Indonesia was the last and most recent of the four countries to report an outbreak of avian influenza, Mr. Kyprianou will discuss how surveillance and control of the virus could be strengthened.
The first suspected case of the current strain of H5N1 avian influenza virus in Asia was reported in Thailand in November 2003. Since then, outbreaks have been confirmed in Cambodia, China (including Hong Kong), Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, North Korea, Pakistan, South Korea, and Vietnam. A wide geographic spread of avian influenza has continued in Asia, also spreading into Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. The disease has affected both domestic poultry and wild birds and has resulted in the loss of more than 150 million poultry in the region. It has also led to the deaths of 62 people, who contracted the disease mainly from very close contact with infected birds and animals.
The European Commission has provided €1.6 million to support Vietnam’s efforts to combat avian influenza during the 2004 and 2005 outbreaks. The funds were channelled through the WHO to purchase personal protective equipment for people involved in culling birds, hospital equipment, preventive medicines and antiviral drugs and to implement awareness raising activities, including training for health staff. A number of EU experts were also deployed to the country to help curb the disease.
In Cambodia, the Commission is providing support in establishing an animal health surveillance system through the EC-Cambodia Livestock Project. Between €500,000and €800,000 of the €5 million budget is envisaged to go towards these activities.
At the joint Commission and WHO conference in Copenhagen on 24-26 October, it was agreed that developed, and in particular European, countries should help the developing countries most exposed to the avian flu virus, by addressing the lack of adequate human and technical resources in the veterinary and medical fields to tackle outbreaks. The European Commission is participating in a conference in Geneva on 7-9 November called by the WHO, FAO and OIE to identify needs and resources to help the worst affected countries combat avian influenza, with a view to an international donors conference in January 2006 to pledge the funds needed.
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