ASEAN Secretariat, 26-27 April 2010

Representatives of the ASEAN Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) Taskforce;

Members of ASEAN HPAI-Roadmap Technical Working Group;

Representatives of Partner Organisations from FAO, ASEAN Experts on Communicable Diseases, Federation of ASEAN Poultry Producers, and Ministry of Health, Indonesia;

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning!

It is indeed an honour and privilege for me to welcome all of you, on behalf of H.E. Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, the Secretary-General of ASEAN, to the First Technical Working Group Meeting to develop the Roadmap for the Control and Eradication of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in the region. I am pleased to see various sectoral representatives present today which clearly reflect ASEAN’s collaborative approach towards strengthening regional coordination in this important endeavour.

I am certain that all of us here would not forget the first outbreak in 2003 of the H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza that devastated the region. No less than 200 million poultry were culled, which led to economic losses of over US$ 10 billion to our poultry sector. About 330 people contracted the infection in the region of which 200 of them died. Panic and fear spread all over the region, which also caused some degree of political and socio-cultural tensions. However, through our collective efforts, we were able to manage and control this dreadful disease. This has been due to the multi-sectoral cooperation led by public health and livestock sector; the establishment of regional work plans and mechanisms such as the HPAI Taskforce and strategic plans; and the continued support of and cooperation with technical and development partners such as FAO, OIE, WHO and ADB.

Although concerted international action has successfully eliminated the deadly H5N1 Avian Influenza virus from poultry in almost all the 63 countries it infected at the peak of the global outbreak in 2006, the virus persists in five nations that include two ASEAN Member States, Indonesia and Viet Nam. The current thinking is that for as long as the virus is present in even one country, there is still a risk to the ASEAN Community that must be taken seriously, let alone the concern of cross mutation among other pandemic and deadly viruses. Therefore, the progressive control of HPAI remains a priority for ASEAN.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our gathering today shows our commitment and determination to achieve our vision of HPAI-free ASEAN by 2020. This vision should be guided by a focused, action-oriented and long-term strategy to progressively control and eradicate the disease. The Roadmap will, therefore, be critical in paving the way for regional collective efforts to ensure the attainment of this important vision.

Let me share with you some of the multi-dimensional importance of the HPAI Roadmap for ASEAN and its community building process.

Strengthening the sustainable development of livestock

Any HPAI outbreak will be a major threat to the region’s livestock sector, considering the economic importance and the livelihoods of people who depend upon this sector. The HPAI Roadmap will, therefore, help to control and progressively eradicate the deadly virus by promoting the overall improvement of livestock development, particularly in strengthening the veterinary services, which serves as a bedrock in addressing animal diseases whether they are zoonotic or non-zoonotic in nature. It is hoped that the Roadmap will enable the sector to fulfil its promise of contributing to regional economic integration towards a single market and production base by 2015 with free flow of animals and livestock products as well as alleviating poverty and enhancing food security in the region. This is indeed a key ASEAN contribution to the World Veterinary Day, which is annually celebrated on the last Saturday of April since 2000.

Strengthening regional coordination on animal health and zoonoses

HPAI is a transboundary animal disease. Successful eradication would require effective regional collaborative mechanisms and actions. The Roadmap will enable all of us to bring the current concerted efforts to a whole new level characterized by effective regional collaboration and coordination between livestock and animal health agencies of ASEAN Member States. Such regional collaboration and coordination will also provide a platform for information and experience sharing to support the less developed ASEAN Member States such as Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar towards reducing development disparities.

Strengthening multi-sectoral cooperation on health related issues in line with “One World, One Health (OWOH)” concept

With a view to ensure holistic health of the society – human, animals, plants and the environment, scholars and experts have been in search of multi-sectoral cooperation on health related issues. The emergence of “One World, One Health (OWOH)” concept is in this light.

It has long been known that 60% of known infectious diseases are common to humans and animals (whether domestic or wild); 75% of recent emerging human diseases came from animals and 80% of the pathogens that could potentially be used in bioterrorism are zoonotic. It is also known that human populations need a regular diet of protein particularly from milk, eggs or meat, and that a deficiency can also be a public health problem. The unprecedented movement of commodities and people between nations provides opportunities for pathogens to spread and multiply. Further, climate change can enable pathogens to extend their range.

To this end, development of the HPAI Roadmap is a translation of the OWOH concept into a regional collaborative framework by adapting existing systems of animal and public health governance at global, regional and national levels to address vulnerabilities associated with the possible spread of the virus. It is certainly ASEAN’s contribution to the development of OWOH concept.

Cooperation and partnership with development partners and donor agencies

The complexities and increasing challenges posed by health related issues due to closer integration and globalization necessitates strategic partnerships and networking with relevant development partners and donor agencies to tap on synergies and complementarities to better address the challenges posed by HPAI. In this regard, the Roadmap will allow for a useful platform for all parties to cooperate on the common goal of HPAI eradication from the region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that animal health and the issues related to it are important concerns to ASEAN as it will have a serious impact on ASEAN’s continued growth and development as well as the world. We must work hand-in-hand to tackle the issues in a comprehensive manner.

I would like to take this opportunity to convey my sincere appreciation to the HPAI Taskforce and the ASEAN-ADB HPAI Project for their continued support to the strengthening of ASEAN’s regional coordination capacity in controlling and eradicating HPAI and other disease threats.

Last, but not least, my profound appreciation goes to all the participants for committing your valuable time
to attend this milestone-setting endeavour of ASEAN.

I wish all of you a productive meeting and good outcomes.

Thank you.