Dr Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the United Nations Food
and Agriculture Organization, today inaugurated a new FAO Crisis
Management Centre (CMC) to fight Avian Influenza outbreaks and
other major animal health or food health-related emergencies.
“The CMC represents a significant leap forward in FAO’s
ability to help Member Nations prevent and cope with disease outbreaks,” Dr
Diouf said. Set up in collaboration with the Paris-based World
Organisation for Animal Health and located at FAO’s Rome
headquarters, the Centre brings rapid-response capacity to transboundary
animal and plant diseases, and can also react quickly to emergencies
involving plant pests or food safety.
Supported by advanced communications technology, the Centre operates
around the clock, seven days a week with a staff of up to 15 specialists
and veterinarians. Disease information is monitored and updated
from around the globe continuously. When a suspected outbreak is
reported, CMC can dispatch its experts to any hot-spot in the world
in under 48 hours.
“Three years into the Avian Influenza crisis, FAO and the
international community can draw some satisfaction, and some relief,
in the progress made to contain a most deadly menace to the health
of animals and humans across the globe,” Dr Diouf said.
Although the disease remains a potent threat in Indonesia and
Africa, and Eastern Europe and the Caucasus are still vulnerable,
elsewhere in the world the situation has improved, he noted.
“But despite the encouraging and very real progress made,
it does not mean we can lower our guard,” Dr Diouf warned.
“Only when H5N1 has been totally eradicated will the Sword
of Damocles, or more pessimistically the time-bomb, of a human
pandemic be removed,” Dr Diouf added.
“One of the lessons FAO has learned in three years of leading
the international fight against Avian Influenza is that speed is
of the essence,” Dr Diouf declared. “Alert must be
lightning- quick. Reaction must be immediate in combating a disease
which can move, across borders and continents, terrifyingly fast.”
The CMC is headed by Dr Karin Schwabenbauer, former Chief Veterinary
Officer of the German Federal Republic. Her Deputy, Dr Gary L.
Brickler, is seconded from USDA Veterinary Services.
Responses to animal health emergencies will be under the responsibility
of FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Joseph Domenech. Operational
support to the CMC will be provided by FAO’s Emergency and
The United States has provided 5.1 million dollars and three veterinarians
for the Centre. Other contributors include the Federal Republic
of Germany, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Saudi Arabia,
China, Greece and Jordan.
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