By Cecil Mensah
The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)under the United Nations (UN), is offering technical support worth over fourteen thousand Dollars to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) to help to mitigate the spread of Avian Influenza (H5N1), popularly known as Bird Flu.
Speaking at the signing of the agreement for the technical cooperation with MOFA towards the control and elimination of the highly pathogenic Avian influenza, Dr. Abebe Haile Gabriel, Deputy Regional Representative for Africa and FAO representative to Ghana, said the exercise was a demonstration of the continued commitment and the resolve to collaborate to stamp out the spread of the disease from the country.
According to him, the poultry sector is an important industry in the Agriculture economy of the country and contributes towards food and nutrition security, as well as a source of income for many Ghanaians.
He, however, said the industry for many years, have been susceptible to diseases, including Bird Flu, which sometimes destroys the source of livelihood and incomes for a significant number of people in the country.
He said, Ghana was already experiencing the outbreak of the disease which was formally reported in May last year and confirmed in June after similar outbreaks in Nigeria, Burkina Fasso, Ivory Coast, and Niger.
He noted that as of December 12, 2015, 36 outbreaks have been recorded in five regions namely; Greater Accra, Volta, Ashanti, Western and Central Regions.
It is in view of this that, the FAO deployed a team from the Crisis Management Centre Animal Health to the country to evaluate the extent of the outbreaks and to work with the government as well as other partners to bring the outbreak under control he added.
He stressed based on the evaluation, the team identified three areas and proposed that an appropriate outbreak investigations be undertaken as well as the need to communicate to the various stakeholders on the spread and prevention of the disease in the country.
He was pleased about the measures put in place to restrict the movements of poultry from the outbreak areas by the government.
He further commended the government for the payment of compensation to the affected poultry farmers and the provision of targeted information to various stakeholders.
According to him, the payment of the compensation has encouraged the disease reporting which has in turn improved early reaction to the disease spread containment.
He announced that FAO is collaborating with the government in support of efforts directed at outbreak investigation, case tracing surveillance and collection of samples.
He said the technical support will focus on capacity strengthening intervention in areas like training of field officers, improve veterinary service laboratory, provide Bird Flu control materials and facilitate cross boarder consultations among other the affected countries.
Receiving the assistance, the Minister of Food and Agriculture in Charge of Livestock, Dr Hannah Louisa Bissiw said the first outbreak was in May 2015 after the outbreaks in Nigeria, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Germany.
She said the Ministry quickly put measures in place to avoid the further spread of the outbreaks from the affected areas.
She said so far, 36 outbreaks have been recorded in the country from across thefive regions.
She said government has allocated an amount of 11 million Ghana Cedis as compensation to be paid to the affected farmers across the country.
She noted that so far 90 percent of the affected farmers have been paid their compensations and awareness has also been improved to educate farmers on the disease.
She said the government has acquired 22 pick-ups, some motorbikes and one station wagon to be sent to the affected regions to help in the propagation of education on the disease.