A World Health Organization (WHO) official has called for a
regional approach in addressing the risk of avian influenza in east Africa.
Rita Njau is the World Health Organization’s acting director of preventive
services in Tanzania.
Njau told VOA English to Africa reporter Douglas
Mpuga that east Africa’s major bodies of water contribute to the risk of an
avian flu outbreak. “The threat is quite real…. Migratory birds take this path
twice a year as they migrate either from the southern or northern hemisphere.
So we do have a potential threat” (of an outbreak), she said.
She said in 2006, when there was an avian flu
pandemic in East Asia, WHO took the lead in setting up a task force with
relevant institutions within Tanzania to address the threat. “[The WHO] also
worked with other United Nations (UN) agencies and a committee was set up to
discuss how to prepare and handle such potential emergencies.” She added,
“There were actually two parallel task forces ready to tackle the situation as
it would arise.”
Njau said WHO has contingency plans and has
learned from what happened in Sudan, where there was an avian flu case. She
stressed the importance of getting information to the people so that they know
what to do in case of an outbreak.
Njau said more needs to be done about getting
east African countries to cooperate in efforts to prevent avian flu. “I don’t
think we have done as much as we should. There are no concrete plans for east
Africa as a region. But there are plans to look at the issue (avian flu) as an
east African problem. These plans involve looking at it holistically as a
region problem instead of looking at it country by country.”
The World Health organization and other UN
agencies have provided technical and financial support to the countries in the
region. Most of this support is in technical expertise and testing and