17 th CONFERENCE of the OIE Regional Commission for AFRICA

Asmara ( Eritrea ), 26 February- 01 March 2007

The 17th Conference of the Regional Commission for Africa of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) was held in Asmara , ( Eritrea ) from 26 February to 01 March 2007 .

The Conference was chaired by Dr Ghebrehiwet Teame, the OIE Delegate for Eritrea . His Excellency , Mr Arefaine Berhe, Minister of Agriculture of Eritrea, the President of the OIE International Committee, Dr Barry O’Neil, the Director General of the OIE , Dr Bernard Vallat, Delegates of OIE Member Countries, representatives of international and regional organisations and observers attended the Conference.

In his speech, the Minister of Agriculture of Eritrea commended the significant role of the OIE in the international control of animal diseases and the support for international trade of animals and animal products. He stated that like many countries in Africa , much still remains to be done in Eritrea to enable international exports of animals or animal products. However, with the progress being achieved in Eritrea in the field of animal health, ambitions are clear. ‘ We will one day export organic meat to difficult markets including those of Europe ‘ he said.

Two technical items were discussed during the Conference: 

Strategy for epidemiological surveillance systems in Africa

Harmonisation and registration of veterinary drugs in Africa

The Director General of the OIE, Dr Vallat stressed the importance of these two items for Africa . Regarding the involvement of livestock breeders in epidemiological surveillance, he stressed: “ Livestock owners are the first sentinels to detect animal diseases and their role has to be recognised. An effective policy adapted to the specificities of the African Continent to financially compensate them when they lose their animals as part of animal disease control programmes is imperative at least as a medium term objective if the Veterinary Services are to be effective in the early detection and elimination of animal diseases”

Recalling the serious socio-economic impact of highly pathogenic avian Influenza in Africa , he urged policy makers to provide resources to strengthen Veterinary Services. In this respect, he remarked: “ Veterinary Services are now recognised as a global public good. They provide the first line of defence against animal diseases particularly those transmissible to humans. Strengthening of Veterinary Services using the OIE Performance, Vision and Strategy (PVS) tool must therefore, be considered a priority for public investments worldwide ”.

Dr Vallat also announced the project of opening an OIE sub-regional representation in Tunis , Tunisia this year in conjunction with FAO and IBAR. This comes after the opening of a similar office in Gaborone , Botswana in 2006.

The OIE Regional Commission expressed its gratitude to the support provided by the OIE to Member Countries of the Region and strongly supported the actions being undertaken by the OIE to promote the control of animal diseases and zoonoses world-wide and in the region.

Dr Bernard Vallat met his Excellency Mr Isaias Afeworki, President of the State of Eritrea. He seized that opportunity to warmly thank the Government of Eritrea for kindly hosting and supporting the Regional Conference.

All recommendations adopted by the conference will be submitted for consideration and adoption during the next OIE General Assembly, in May 2007.