The European Union (EU) is to assist Nigeria to tackle the deadly H5N1 bird flu which is spreading in the west African country, according to a EU statement obtained on Tuesday.
EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Markos Kyprianou, would "discuss ways in which the EU could assist the Nigerians in their efforts to tackle the disease" during his planned four-day visit to the country starting Wednesday, the statement said.
Kyprianou in what will be his first trip to Africa as the commissioner was expected to meet Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Health Minister Eyitayo Lambo, Agriculture Minister Alhaji Adamu Bell and Information Minister Frank Nweke.
"I am very glad to have the opportunity to visit Nigeria and discuss first hand the avian influenza situation there," Kyprianou said in the statement.
"The commission is very concerned about the impact that avian influenza could have on developing countries where people often live in close proximity with poultry and rely on poultry for their subsistence," he said.
Kyprianou noted that as the spring migratory season approached many birds will be returning from Africa to their summer nesting grounds in or via Europe.
"We cannot predict what this will mean for the EU in terms of avian influenza outbreaks. What we can do is to support and help countries which are battling against this disease in their flocks, " he said.
While in Nigeria, the commissioner will also meet with Mohamad Ibn Chambas, executive secretary of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). He is also planning to visit Egypt on March 25-26, the second African country that reported the presence of H5N1 after Nigeria.