Speech at the final programme steering committee meeting for the Avian Influenza Joint Programme

Oct 7, 2011

Speaker: United Nations Resident Coordinator a.i., Mr. Eamonn Murphy
Date:       07 October, 2011
Event:     Final Programme Steering Committee meeting for the Avian Influenza Joint Programme

Dr. Bui Ba Bong, Vice Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
Dr. Tran Thanh Duong, Deputy Director-General of the General Department of Preventive Medicine of the Ministry of Health
Representatives of Government Ministries,
Representatives of Donors and International Agencies,
My Fellow UN Colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me first thank Vice-Minister Bui Ba Bong and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for organizing this important meeting this morning and inviting me to say a few words.

We are meeting today to review the achievements and impact of the Government of Viet Nam/United Nations Joint Programme on Avian Influenza.

Responding to the challenge posed by the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian influenza has been a key area of UN-Government cooperation in Viet Nam over the past 6 years.  When the programme was first developed in 2005, Viet Nam had the highest number of poultry outbreaks and human cases of avian influenza in the world. Viet Nam’s poultry farmers and traders were greatly affected by losses due to the virus. And there was a very real concern that a new and potentially devastating global human pandemic could emerge here.

At the peak of this global concern, the Government of Viet Nam, the United Nations and several international donors came together to rapidly establish a Government of Viet Nam/United Nations Joint Programme to strengthen the management of public health emergencies in Viet Nam, with a focus on the prevention and control of diseases of epidemic potential including highly pathogenic avian influenza.

The emergency phase of the programme in 2005 and 2006 provided a channel for urgent international support to Viet Nam’s national response, including the development of key national plans and coordination mechanisms. This also included enhanced surveillance and response to possible human cases, nationwide vaccination of poultry, and a major national communications campaign to raise awareness of the risk to humans and to promote measures for people to protect themselves and prevent the spread of the virus.

As the situation has evolved, the second phase of the programme has focused on building the capacity of national partners to continue an effective response to avian influenza and to prepare for a possible human pandemic. The main components of the programme have included animal health and livestock production activities with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, preventive medicine activities with the Ministry of Health, behaviour change communications with a range of partners, and support to overall coordination of national and international activities through the Partnership on Avian and Human Influenza.

The avian influenza joint programme provides an example of what is possible when a number of UN and national agencies come together to address a complex threat that cuts across traditional sectoral boundaries. It provides a model for addressing other disease threats from animals to humans and for addressing other complex issues like climate change and food safety.

On behalf of the UN Country Team, I would like to acknowledge the continuing efforts of the Government, and in particular those of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Health, in the sustained response to avian influenza H5N1 and other emerging infectious diseases in animals and humans. We will hear this morning about the status of the overall national plan for the coming period, and have an opportunity to discuss priority areas for future UN assistance and cooperation under the UN’s One Plan for the 2012-2016.

At the outset of this concluding meeting for the joint programme, I would also like to express our thanks for the important contributions of all the donors to the two phases of the programme, including Australia, Canada, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and Switzerland. Your support and commitment to both addressing avian influenza and supporting new modalities for UN-Government cooperation were critical to the establishment and effectiveness of this joint programme.

I also want to acknowledge the wider group of international partners with whom we have had very effective cooperation in an overall coordinated response through the Partnership on Avian and Human Influenza. It is always difficult to single out individual agencies, but I would particularly note USAID, the World Bank, the Government of Japan and KfW, all of whom provided parallel or complementary funding to the joint programme in either the first or second phase.

I am looking forward to a productive meeting this morning, where we will be able to review our successful cooperation over the past six years, identify the impact to date, and continue constructive discussions towards our future cooperation.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.