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The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) launches a global alliance against animal diseases, including zoonoses

The SSAFE - "Safe Supply of Affordable Food for Everyone Everywhere" meeting, sponsored and hosted by the OIE on the 19-20 April 2006, concluded its work today.

The SSAFE initiative is hosted by the University of Minnesota (USA). It intends to provide input from the entire food supply chain, to facilitate and enable progress in strengthening the global food safety system as well as animal disease prevention and control worldwide, and to leverage resources through public-private partnerships for collective action. It counts with partners of the private sector from the global and regional food and feed systems (production, processing and distribution), NGOs, and intergovernmental agencies worldwide ,

In the present context of globalisation, outbreaks of certain animal diseases, especially those transmissible to humans, can cause considerable economic and social disruption. Recent sanitary crises involving bovine spongiform encephalopathy, foot and mouth disease and avian influenza are ample illustration of this new trend. In particular, the current avian influenza crisis shows the extent to which a serious sanitary event affecting the animal kingdom can have global consequences both for the rural economy and food security, while causing threats to public health.

“We need to identify new forms of dialogue in order to try to prevent such crisis”, the Director General of the OIE, Dr Bernard Vallat, said at the end of the meeting. “ Through the involvement and engagement of global stakeholders from the food and feed industry, academia, non-governmental organizations and consumer groups, it is possible to improve public health, animal health and food safety, in an objective manner and through a fully integrated approach of the public sector, including the Veterinary Services and all stakeholders involved”, he added.

Public-private partnerships need to become integrated relationships with a high level of engagement and shared goals in order to achieve sustained strategic synergies to address the threats to animal and public health.

The meeting identified the concept of good global governance as a key factor for successfully addressing the issue of the prevention and control of emerging infectious diseases of animal origin in general, the sustainability of the global food supply and the strengthening and coordination of veterinary and public health infrastructure and response capacity.

“Governments in developing and in–transition countries are not capable of raising their animal health and public health infrastructures to the required standards to address avian influenza and other emerging animal diseases without cooperation with the private sector, including farmers and private veterinarians”, Dr Vallat stressed at the meeting.

“They have to set the parameters, implement the legislations and empower public-private partnerships to build global alliances to protect our world from new threats” he concluded.

The meeting also identified priority actions to be taken. These would be set on a short, mid and long term in three different regions of the world and would focus on capacity building and education, on animal disease surveillance and compartmentalization and on the modernisation and strengthening of veterinary services.

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