A workshop aimed at controlling outbreak and transmission of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in the West African sub-region has opened in Sunyani.

The three-day event was attended by chief veterinary officers, personnel of security agencies and stakeholders in the poultry industry drawn from Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin and Cote D’Ivoire.

It is on the theme “improving effective cross-border collaboration in management of the highly pathogenic Avian Influenza out break in West Africa”.

Opening the workshop, Mrs. Anna Nyamekye, Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture in charge of livestock, said that a total of 40,000 birds were lost to the bird flu as a result of natural death and through culling during the outbreak of the disease in Tema, Aflao and Sunyani in 2007.

She said, consequently, government paid GHC 160,000 to affected farmers and traders, who lost birds and other poultry products, as compensation.

Mrs. Nyamekye said that since 2006, some African countries had experienced outbreaks of the Avian Influenza.

She said that the recent re-occurrence of the bird flu in Nigeria in July and Togo in September 2008, posed a great threat to neighbouring countries.

Mrs. Nyamekye said since July 2007, the veterinary services directorate of the Ministry had focused its resources on preventive strategic to ensure early warning, detection and rapid response to Avian Influenza.

“These activities have been made possible through the implementation of a number of projects, with financial and material support from government and our development partners, EU, FAO, ADB, DFID and USAID” she said.

Mrs. Nyamekye explained that considering the importance and key role of bio-security in the control of animal diseases including bird flu, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) supported the veterinary services directorate with 50,000 dollars in organising country-wide training for poultry farmers in GHana.

She said the European Union (EU) Avian Influenza Project, was also launched in March this year in the country and that active surveillance on domestic and wild birds was carried out in June and July 2008.

Mrs. Nyamekye explained that the purpose of the active surveillance was to provide enough information for the World Animal Health Organisation, to prove freedom of infection of the disease in the country and that a total of 1,247 samples were collected and tested negative for the disease.

She said government had helped in improving capacities of the veterinary laboratories and also equipped the laboratories with needed reagents and consumables for diagnosis of Avian Influenza.

Mrs. Nyamekye said “At present, only the Accra veterinary laboratory is well equipped to carry out diagnosis of the disease. A second veterinary laboratory well equipped and capable of diagnosing Avian Influenza is required especially in Kumasi, where a large concentration of stock of poultry exists”, she said.

She stressed the need to encourage and facilitate formation of poultry farmers’ associations at the rural level.

Mrs. Nyamekye said this could assist the associations to collaboration with groups in neighbouring countries towards the control of the disease.

Dr. Ebenezer B.M. Konney, Acting Director of Ghana Veterinary Service, said Sunyani was selected for the meeting because of the high poultry density in the region, particularly in the Dormaa-Ahenkro area that was close to Cote D’Ivoire.

He said the outbreak of the Avian Influenza had decreased significantly world-wide this year but the recent “outbreaks in Nigeria and Togo should be a source of worry to the people in West Africa, because it indicated persistence of the virus in the sub-region.

Dr. Konney said the outbreak of Avian Influenza had come as an awakening call for the veterinary services of various countries to be strengthened, equipped and supplied with the requisite reagents and consumables and at the same time build capacities of the veterinary staff.

Nana Kwadwo Kwakye, Deputy Brong Ahafo Regional Minister, said the most effective control measures in the management of Avian Influenza and other trans-boundary animal diseases was the imposition of bans on imports of live poultry and poultry products from countries that had confirmed outbreaks of the disease.

“This had socio-economic implications for the producing country and economic ties that impinge on our capacity and capability of managing such important diseases”, he said.

Source: GNA