Southern African countries have been mobilized to remain vigilant to keep the region free of avian influenza, according to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit being held here in Lesotho's capital Maseru.
Although the region is currently free of this disease, there was a risk of its introduction into the region given the rate at which it spread from other parts of the world, said Timothy Thahane, chairperson of the SADC Council of Ministers and minister of finance & development planning of the Kingdom of Lesotho.
At a post-Council of Ministers meeting media briefing Wednesday, Thahane urged the region at large to remain vigilant by taking preventive measures.
Currently four SADC member countries including Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and South Africa are at high risk of the epidemic, considering factors such as difficulty in border control and the phenomenon of migratory birds, said Executive Secretary of SADC Tomaz Salomao.
The council of ministers meeting, which took place on Tuesday and Wednesday, has received and deliberated on the Report from the Joint Meeting of Ministers of Health, Agriculture and Livestock and approved the SADC Highly Pathogenic Notifiable Avian and Pathogenic Human Influenza Preparedness and Response Plan, whose overall goal is to keep SADC free of the this influenza.
The magnitude of avian and human influenza epidemic necessitated this joint approach for preparedness and response, said Thahane, as the socio-economic implications of the pandemic on member states would be very serious, since it would affect the poultry industry, exports, food security, tourism and employment, thereby aggravating poverty in the region.
The council also urged member states to implement the national avian and human influenza preparedness and response plans within the context of the regional plan.
In Africa, the bird flu virus has been so far been found in Nigeria, Egypt, Niger, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Sudan and Djbouti.