Saturday, November 18, 2006

International Avian Flu Meeting To Be Held in Bamako, Mali

17 November 2006

International Avian Flu Meeting To Be Held in Bamako, Mali

U.S. co-sponsors conference organized by African Union, Mali, European Union

By Cheryl Pellerin
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington -- Health and agriculture ministers from many countries around the world will gather in Bamako, Mali, December 6-8 to address issues of growing concern involving avian and pandemic influenza and international response and preparedness.

The African Union, the government of Mali and the European Union are co-organizing the conference, and the U.S. State Department is a co-sponsor.

The meeting will be the fourth since September 2005, when President Bush announced before the United Nations General Assembly a new International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza that would bring together key nations and international organizations to bolster global readiness ahead of the growing threat.

Members of the international partnership met in Washington in October 2005 and in Vienna, Austria, in June 2006, and donors from the global community met in Beijing in January 2006, pledging $1.9 billion to fight avian and pandemic influenza.

Of that total, the U.S. contribution has been $334 million. In September, the total U.S. contribution rose to $392 million.

"Avian influenza is expanding across the globe and remains a serious concern for all of us, including countries that are not yet affected, such as those in the Western Hemisphere," said Ambassador John Lange, special representative for avian and pandemic influenza at the State Department, at a press briefing November 16.

The United States is working with many other countries, Lange added, including African nations, "because avian influenza spread to Africa in 2006 and continues to be a concern."


The 4th International Conference on Avian Influenza in Bamako aims to give new insights into avian influenza disease development worldwide and offer the latest information on strategies, vaccination and forms of compensation to citizens for poultry deaths. The assembled ministers also will work to foster integrated national strategies coordinated at regional and global levels.

"Given the urgency and the seriousness of the situation," said African Union Chairman Alpha Konaré of Mali in a statement on the conference Web site, "I therefore invite all our partners and stakeholders to leave no stone unturned in working towards our goal of minimizing HPAI [highly pathogenic avian influenza] impact in livestock and public health domains in Africa."

The United States is concerned about the possible decimation of the poultry population in Africa if bird flu spreads beyond the eight currently affected countries.

"If [avian influenza] continues to spread in Africa," Lange said, "then separate from the infections that take place in humans who are very close to the chickens, you may have a loss of a primary protein source [for human diets] in some countries."

For those interested in the economic and social development of Africa, he added, "that is a serious concern.”

The virus now is considered endemic, or prevalent, in poultry populations in large parts of Asia, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and time frames for controlling the disease are being measured in years.

"We hope to avoid that in Africa," Lange said. "That's one of the reasons we're so excited about the event coming up in Bamako, to focus at the ministerial level, in African countries and other countries around the world, attention on avian and pandemic influenza" and on the importance of engaging in pandemic preparedness.


The focus on preparedness is also intensifying in Asia.

The two-day 18th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting concluded November 16 in Vietnam with a joint statement by representatives from 21 member economies that included a section on enhancing avian and human pandemic influenza preparedness and response.

The ministers renewed their commitment to communicate outbreaks transparently and share samples for research to improve preparedness, and urged continued efforts to develop, integrate and practice avian and pandemic influenza preparedness plans to mitigate human suffering and major effects on commerce, trade and security.

APEC economic ministers also agreed to continue to collaborate with the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza and to maintain cooperation with international organizations such as the WHO, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health.

"As one of the core principles of the International Partnership," Lange said, “we are stressing to country after country the importance of transparency and sample sharing in dealing with avian influenza."

The sooner the world knows about each outbreak, he added, "the more able we are to help a country try to control the outbreaks and to deal with what could someday be a pandemic.”

The next meeting of the international partnership will be held in New Delhi in 2007.

More information about the conference is available on an African Union Web site.

For more information on U.S. and international efforts to combat avian influenza, see Bird Flu (Avian Influenza).

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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