The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is holding a three-day workshop this week in Bamako, Mali, to prepare humanitarian relief providers for an avian influenza pandemic.
More than anywhere else in the world, Africa’s efforts to curtail such viruses are thwarted by weak health systems, limited financial resources and insufficient technical capacity.
“Preparing to contain this disease rapidly is high priority for human, economic and social security in West African countries,” said Hervé Ludovic de Lys, OCHA’s Regional Director for West Africa.
In response to cases of avian influenza which first emerged on the continent in 2006, government authorities have taken measures to respond to the threat.
Since poultry and poultry products are key components of the basic diet in many African countries, people would have to locate other sources of protein if a pandemic broke out. This would result in stock keepers losing income, a surge in prices and population movements to unaffected areas.
Therefore, improved surveillance, swift diagnostics, an informed population and behavioural changes are necessary for a rapid response.
The three-day workshop which ends tomorrow brings together 14 nations, regional organizations, civil society representatives and UN agencies and their partners.
Participants will evaluate their levels of preparedness, take part in a simulation exercise using UN contingency plans and endeavour to improve communication with government institutions and civil society organizations.
This meeting is the second in a series, with the first having been held in Accra, Ghana, last week.