Avian and human influenza

Published: 7 December 2006

My communication will be in English but with your indulgence, I would like to say few words in French.

Nous aimerions remercier le gouvernement du Mali pour nous recevoir de si belle façon dans son pays pour cette importante conférence.

Nous aimerions aussi remercier les organisateurs pour nous avoir donné l’occasion de nous exprimer – organismes humanitaires et ONG – une importante composante de la société civile croyons-nous.

Permettez-nous aussi de souligner la vision et le rôle primordial qu’a joué le Dr Nabarro en stimulant et invitant les principaux organismes humanitaires et ONG à se concerter et à travailler en synergie sur cette question de la grippe aviaire.

Nous voudrions lui rendre hommage aujourd’hui. Enfin, un mot de remerciement aux représentants de l’Union africaine et à M. Alain Vandersmissen, grippe aviaire, tsunami asiatique et affaires horizontales, de l’Union européenne qui ont permis que cette communication ait lieu ici à Bamako.

Let me now proceed in English.

Introduction

On behalf of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the humanitarian organisations cooperating in avian and human pandemic influenza prevention and preparedness activities, let me first thank you for the invitation to participate and to address this Senior Officials Meeting in Bamako.

We deeply appreciate the determined action and commitment of the United Nations’ System, the European Commission, the African Union, the World Bank and other regional bodies towards addressing the avian and human pandemics.

Our key message today is that community-based organisations and civil society play a unique and important complementary role and have to work cooperatively to mitigate the avian and human pandemic influenza risks and challenges. At the same time, we wish to highlight the need for the international assistance to materialise, following the commitment made in Beijing.

At the Senior Officials Meeting in Vienna last June, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (“the International Federation”) issued a statement advocating for the crucial role of communities, local NGOs and civil society in response to the avian influenza threat.

We highlighted that the capacity of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, local NGOs and civil society will be a crucial part of the efforts to reduce the impact and the severity of the disease in humans and to increase the society’s capacity to cope with suffering, loss of life, massive social disruption and economic breakdown.

Report on the progress

We are today reporting on progress made this year and would like to point out key challenges ahead.

The International Federation supported its member National Societies to increase, train or re-train human resources; to increase public health in emergencies approaches; to foster epidemic control; to carry out assessments, health education programmes, procurement of protective and hygiene materials; to provide technical knowledge and expertise, as well as to improve information sharing.

In so doing it brings the network of 185 National Societies in line with technical standards and checklists for pandemic preparedness and avian influenza risk reduction.

More than ever before, we now clearly see that without functioning alliances and cooperation with other stakeholders, we will not succeed in achieving a maximum impact. Avian influenza and the threat of a human influenza pandemic are exceeding our capacities as individual organisations.

Acknowledging the unique role of community-based organisations and civil society in mitigating avian and human pandemic influenza, on the 4th and 5th of October 2006, a Working Meeting on Avian and Human Influenza took place in Geneva, co-hosted by the International Federation and CARE International under the auspices of the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response.

Participating organisations included CARE International, the International Federation, OXFAM and World Vision International, all with expertise in working with communities, implementing action oriented programmes at the local level, with well coordinated global structures. Agronomes et Vétérinaires Sans Frontières and Save the Children were unable to attend, although both organisations expressed support for the meeting's objectives.

Furthermore, the United Nations System Influenza Coordinator (UNSIC) and the Academy for Educational Development (AED) both participated in this meeting.

These representatives of civil society and community-based organisations identified areas for future cooperation and collaboration in technical know-how and expertise, such as health services, livelihoods security, food safety, psychosocial support, sanitation, staff and volunteer health protection, and business continuity.

We are confident that together and in collaboration with governments, UN agencies, other international organisations, and the private sector, we will be able to improve our collective impact and outreach in these areas.

Our synergy will add value to our work and we will respond more effectively in preventing, preparing for and responding to avian and human pandemic influenza.

Already, a concrete proposal is being developed in South-East Asia aimed at strengthening the community-based management of Avian and Human Influenza through knowledge-sharing, development of best practices and training material, as well as strengthened communication and coordination.

We want to share with you today the letter of intent that has been prepared and agreed by the three organisations part of this statement, expressing our collective commitment to cooperate in avian and human influenza activities.

To add to this letter of intent, we would like to illustrate with few concrete examples our avian flu related accomplishments on the ground.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

In line with WHO recommendations, the International Federation has provided advice on many aspects of pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

For instance: public health goals for each pandemic phase, influenza epidemiology and characteristics of the disease as well as guidance on prevention and preparedness, early case detection, case management at home and in communities, early warning systems, community-based surveillance and response, social mobilisation, volunteer and staff protection, stocked medicine and protective clothing.

Regional strategic and action plans have been formulated with the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Southeast, East and South Asia, West and East Africa, Middle East and more recently in North, Central and South America.

Together with UNSIC, the International Federation is co-hosting regular coordination meetings in Bangkok, and taking an active part in the coordination hubs in Dakar and Nairobi.

We wish to emphasise the importance of establishing more such coordination hubs in other regions. In line with this, it is encouraging to note that most recently, an avian and human influenza coordination platform has been established in Dakar in line with the Bangkok model.

We are promoting lessons learned from social mobilisation activities in Vietnam, Indonesia, China, and Asia, as well as cooperating with other agencies in developing indicators to monitor progress and impacts.

From the International Federation’s global appeal, we are supporting National Societies activities in North and Central Africa, South East Asia and Europe.

The appeal has been contributed to by the governments of Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand, and by the German Red Cross, the Japanese Red Cross, the Libyan Red Crescent, the Monaco Red Cross, the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent. Bilateral contributions were also made by the American Red Cross, the Danish Red Cross, and the Netherlands Red Cross.

We intend to measure and assess progress made concerning the number of people reached with the avian and human influenza activities, as well as the current capacities built within our membership. This is planned to be carried out through a follow-up global mapping survey in February 2007, one year after measuring the first status of preparedness.

As stated by Markku Niskala, Secretary General of the International Federation, at the International Conference in Beijing in January 2006, the tens of millions of volunteers in our National Societies are the backbone of our community-based interventions, thus enabling the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies to play a significant part in the preventive measures, and - hopefully not - in relief and response.

However we are concerned with the magnitude of volunteer and staff protection issues we might be facing, and we are equally concerned with the ethical issues that the volunteers may be confronted with as part of the affected communities. We must have better collective understanding of these issues in order to respond appropriately to a problem with unprecedented magnitude.

Finally, the International Federation fully appreciate that the present work on avian influenza mitigation creates invaluable experience not only for an efficient response to this epizootic but for other global threats that may occur in the future.

CARE International

CARE International advocates that more resources be directed to the community level, where the outbreaks occur and where the virus can be stopped at its source.

In Vietnam, responding to the outbreaks in 2003, CARE worked with New Zealand’s International Aid and Development Agency to implement one of the world’s first community mobilisation projects on avian influenza.

The successful “Stop AI” project developed a unique model of community response that is currently being adapted and scaled up in South East Asia, with funding from the Australian Government Overseas Aid Program (AusAID), USAID, the CDCs and private donors.

In addition to expanding its geographic coverage, CARE in Southeast Asia is piloting new approaches, such as working with poultry middle men, and leading innovation at the local level to overcome barriers to prevent and control.

In October 2006, CARE in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia began programs with the Centres for Disease Control to enhance community-based Avian Influenza surveillance, linking local response to a national surveillance and reporting system.

As the threat for countries outside of Southeast Asia grows, CARE shares lessons learned from Asia with the colleagues in Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Latin America. CARE has a long-term presence in over 70 countries with focal point for Avian Influenza appointed in 93% of its offices.

Through coordinated dissemination, learning and response and through its network, CARE is contributing to a global effort in many places where there have been no interventions for Avian Influenza.

Recently, in the North of Uganda CARE worked with a local theatre group on a drama about the signs, symptoms and consequences of Avian Influenza.

This drama was used to raise awareness in relation to the recent outbreak in Juba, South Sudan. In Niger, CARE documented the effects of Avian Influenza on poor households and projected the impacts on livelihood if future outbreaks were to occur.

In Nicaragua, CARE mobilised the national NGO health network, who then jointly hosted workshops and meetings with government ministries to create a national preparedness plan.

In many countries, CARE is translating avian influenza messages into local languages and integrating them into the ongoing programming. Very often these programmes provide the only source of information available to the community.

World Vision International

World Vision's avian and human influenza preparedness and response strategy is centred on the health and safety of its staff, stability of its operations and programs, and engaging with communities and others to develop and deliver influenza response programs.

In order to assure its own continuing operations, World Vision is taking steps to reduce staff exposure to and transmission of a pandemic virus, to minimize illness among staff, and to provide staff support before, during and after a pandemic.

Furthermore, World Vision has developed and is implementing strategies for maintaining critical operations and activities during and after a pandemic.

With field programs in virtually all of the countries where avian flu is already endemic, and in the Eurasian and Sub-Saharan countries where avian flu has spread, World Vision is engaging in programmatic responses to avian and human influenza.

Activities include engaging with communities, government agencies, global agencies, other international NGOs and private sector organizations.

Together they develop and deliver avian and human influenza pandemic response programs such as general public education and awareness, community-based surveillance, rapid response capabilities and assistance, health capacity building, and advocacy.

World Vision has formed working groups in each of its regions and appointed avian and human influenza focal point persons in each of its national offices with responsibility for coordinating preparedness and response activities.

Many World Vision national offices are working with their respective government-led national taskforces to assess where World Vision can complement the national preparedness framework and participate in avian influenza national committees.

In many of its development program area, World Vision is playing a primary role in avian and human influenza information, education and communication.

Conclusion

The main challenges remain to keep the public engaged in this endeavour, to mobilise appropriate resources and to maintain the fine line between pushing things ahead and not being too alarmist.

Communication during outbreaks remains a crucial issue to be addressed together, as well as scaling up pandemic preparedness at community level with simple and affordable means.

We are committed to bring this work forward together and we acknowledge the efforts the UN System coordination has made to consolidate the work of the UN agencies in this regard.

Coordinated effort is essential – across the United Nations System, regional systems, governments, civil society organisations, communities, and the private sector.

To conclude, we wish to echo the words of Dr David Nabarro, the Senior United Nations Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza.

He emphasised to the donor community the importance to deliver the pledges and commitments made in January and to continue to provide the much needed resources.

This will enable the action plans against avian influenza to fully materialise and prevent the worst, the occurrence of a human pandemic.

Once again, thank you for inviting us to this important high-level meeting in Bamako, and providing us with the opportunity to speak on behalf of humanitarian organisations that are actively co-operating in avian and human pandemic prevention, mitigation and response.

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