May 12, 2010 News
– PAHO, PANAFTOSA to assist in ensuring Guyana remains free of foot-and-mouth disease
By Ursulla Ramdayal
The 37th meeting of the South American Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (COSALFA) began yesterday at the Guyana International Conference Centre, Liliendaal.
Hosted for the first time in Guyana, the two-day meeting was described as arguably the most important of its kind. The COSALFA meets annually to advise, coordinate, and evaluate the programmes and agreements of the region on foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and other vesicular diseases.
Dr. Dwight Waldron, Director of the National Cattle Development Programme, was the Leader of the Guyanese organising team and Guyana’s delegate at the meeting.
Dr. Adrianus Vlugman, the PAHO/WHO ad-interim representative to Guyana, pointed out during the opening ceremony, that FMD can cause great economic and social loss.
Dr. Vlugman said that although North and Central America and the Caribbean region are free of the disease, South America is recognised as an infected area. Chile, Argentina, the Guianas and other regions are free of FMD with vaccination.
In 1970 there was an outbreak of FMD in Lethem, Region 9. Hard work resulted in Guyana being declared free of FMD in 2000 by the World Organisation for Animal Health.
But neighbouring Brazil and Venezuela are not free. A recent outbreak in Brazil in 2005, resulted from smuggling unvaccinated animals into the country from Paraguay.
The PAHO/WHO representative said that this shows a clear need to address present regulations to prevent the recurrence and reintroduction of this disease into Guyana.
Pointing to the growing agricultural sector in Guyana, Dr. Vlugman said the other economic opportunity is to export more beef to South American countries.
“PAHO and PANAFTOSA (Pan American Foot and Mouth Disease Center) are pleased to collaborate within our mandate to promote this trade” he stated.
The two organisations will work closely with key stakeholders from the Ministry of Agriculture to prepare an audit and evaluation manual for the foot-and-mouth disease programme. They will also join regular visits to border crossings to assist with conducting these audits, in addition to providing technical assistance with the Brazil, Guyana and Venezuelan sanitary programmes, the FMD Preparedness Plan and Surveillance.
“We conducted a vulnerability assessment for the reintroduction of FMD in Guyana and we plan to conduct simulation exercises later this year. We also plan to conduct an evaluation of the objectives of the hemispheric FMD eradication plan.”
Dr. Ottorino Cosivim, Director of PANAFTOSA -PAHO/WHO and Secretary ex-officio of COSALFA, pointing to the huge challenge FMD poses to veterinary services, stated that the 15% of cattle in South America which are not free of FMD represent the main source of risk in the region.
“This, along with other disease eradication programmes, tells us that the last steps of the eradication are the most challenging. Fighting the complacency is probably the main challenge we have facing us today,” he added.
Outlining the importance of the COSALFA and the global consumption outlook, Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud explained that “…the inability to fully eradicate FMD in our continent, is in fact the major barrier to trade in livestock and even sharing of much needed resources amongst our countries.”
Adding that the livestock sector is at an important crossroads, he pointed that the mandate of the meeting was to work hard together to ensure that diseases such as foot-and-mouth do not jeopardise the tremendous efforts made by farmers, as well as the future of their communities.
He also challenged the 37th COSALFA to “bring practical solutions to the table, alongside realistic projects and programmes that would lead to the eventual eradication of foot-and-mouth disease in South America and certainly a growth of free trade amongst our countries.”
Prime Minister Samuel Hinds in delivering the feature address at the opening ceremony of the meeting pointed to the make-up of the COSALFA – a wide cross-section of the livestock sector, encompassing private and public institutions; production, regulating and research groups. This, he said, is an indication of the members’ dedication in eradicating the dreaded FMD from the continent.
“By the year 2015 the global population is expected to increase to approx 8 billion. There will be a continued shift of people which will increase the demand for animal-based proteins. We must redouble our efforts to contain and eradicate FMD which is a very serious barrier to the production and trade of meat and meat products of cloven foot origin.” said the Prime Minister.
“There are very serious challenges facing you, I wish you well in your endeavours. I hope that very practical and successful solutions will be found and that a number of steps will be taken in furtherance of the quest for a FMD-free South American continent.”
COSALFA is made up of the directors of the official animal health services and by a representative of the affiliations of livestock producers of each of the eleven countries of South America: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela, Uruguay.
The first meeting of the COSALFA was held in 1973. The COSALFA is considered as the Commission Sub Regional Permanent and institutionalized, by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the Countries.
The COSALFA has as a purpose acting as a regional coordination mechanism to promote lines of action, coordinate, and evaluate the activities carried out for foot-and-mouth disease control and eradication in the continent.
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