8th Conference of the OIE Regional Commission for the Middle East – Manama (Bahrain), 26-29 September 2005

The Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain kindly agreed to host the 8th Conference of the OIE Regional Commission for the Middle East in its capital city, Manama. This Regional Commission has 20 Member Countries and is one of the five Regional Commissions of the OIE. The Conference was presided by His Excellency Mr Ali Bin Saleh Al-Saleh, Minister of Municipalities Affairs and Agriculture of Bahrain, and Dr Salman A. Nabi Ebrahim, Director of the Animal Health Directorate, President of the OIE Regional Commission for the Middle East and Delegate of Bahrain to the OIE. The Director General of the OIE, Dr Bernard Vallat, the OIE Regional Representative for the Middle East, Dr Ghazi Yehia, Delegates of Member Countries of the OIE, representatives of international and regional organisations and observers also attended the Conference.

In his introductory address, the Director General of the OIE, Dr Bernard Vallat, expressed his gratitude on behalf of the 167 OIE Member Countries to the Authorities of the Kingdom of Bahrain for hosting this very important meeting.

Dr Vallat explained that the OIE as a world organization, is always in the forefront playing the leading role in the control of animal diseases and zoonoses. Speaking on the current threat of a potential human flu pandemic, Dr Vallat commented "I would like to reiterate my previous assertions that the best way to prevent the pandemic is to reduce or eliminate the virus from the animal source and in this respect, the OIE has provided Member countries with the necessary tools and/or advice to achieve that goal". He explained that the OIE has through its world-wide network of Reference Laboratories and experts provided Member Countries with AI surveillance guidelines, standards to continue trade of poultry and poultry products, a choice of vaccines that can be applied and a joint OIE/FAO network of expertise for the exchange of scientific information and virus strains of animal origin which may be used for the manufacture of human vaccines. He also announced that the OIE is leading a high level delegation of world renowned experts comprising epidemiologists, laboratory specialists and ornithologists to proceed to Siberia in order to confirm whether these birds are really carriers of the virus and whether they can carry the virus over long distances and, if so, when and where they can present disease risks.

Dr Vallat also addressed a special message to politicians and other policy makers urging them to consider strengthening of the veterinary service as an ‘International Public Good’ and to ensure that adequate resources are provided to veterinary services to enable them to develop a rapid and early warning and response system with respect to disease incursions. He stressed "investment in animal health through Veterinary Services should be considered as a priority for its role in more effectively controlling animal diseases, in protecting public health and in improving regional and international market access for the benefit of the Middle East region and the international community as a whole".

The two technical items discussed during the Conference were of particular importance and interest. These were:

  • Capacity-building in the Veterinary Services of Middle Eastern countries
  • Registration of veterinary medicinal products and biologicals

Heads of Veterinary Services of Member Countries presented reports on the animal diseases that recently occurred in their countries giving an updated general overview of the current animal disease situation in the region. New developments in OIE aquatic animal health policies with special reference to the Middle east were presented and discussed. Presentations were also made on the following: the joint OIE/FAO GF-TADs programme (Global Framework for the Progressive Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases), which is a partnership of crucial importance for the control of animal diseases in the world, the OIE Pathway for the recognition of country freedom from rinderpest in the Middle East, the Regional Emergency Veterinary Committee for the Middle East, the control of horse movements in the region, food-borne diseases in products of animal origin, the current global threat of avian influenza and the Rift Valley fever (RVF) climate modelling system.

The OIE Regional Commission expressed its appreciation and gratitude to the support provided to Member Countries of the Region by the OIE and strongly supported the actions being undertaken by the OIE to promote the control of animal diseases and zoonoses in the region. Finally, several Recommendations were discussed and adopted.

Three recommendations, namely on capacity building and quality of veterinary services, registration of medicinal products and biologicals and on avian influenza prevention and control, which are of great interest to the 20 Member Countries of the Middle East will be submitted for consideration during the OIE General Session of all Member Countries in May 2006.

Participants supported the proposal of the Delegate of Syria to hold the 9th Conference of the OIE Regional Commission for the Middle East in his country in September 2007. They extended their sincere gratitude to the Authorities of the Kingdom of Bahrain and their Veterinary Services for the excellent quality of the organisation and hospitality.