U.S. Ambassador Visits Avian Influenza Model Village in Hung Yen Province
Hung Yen, Vietnam, April 22, 2009
Ambassador Robert Loftis, the U.S. Special Representative for Avian and Pandemic Influenza, visited Vietnam's Hung Yen province and held talks with officials in Hanoi to learn more about Vietnam’s efforts to combat the deadly and costly avian influenza virus.
Ambassador Loftis, joined by senior representatives from the United Nations System Influenza Coordination office, on Tuesday visited Khoa Nhu village, where many villagers operate small-scale poultry farms and hatcheries. Working collectively, the community has improved village hygiene, farmers’ individual practices, and community-wide perceptions about the risks and prevention of avian influenza.
The international visitors attended the farmers’ monthly meeting, during which the community discusses common challenges to raising healthy poultry, agrees on solutions, and records them in a village-wide agreement. Recently, the community has worked together to clean up the village canal and ensure that poultry waste is no longer dumped into this water source. All households now bag poultry waste for weekly collection.
""For those of us who work at the policy level, it is very important to see what is happening at the village level,” said Ambassador Loftis. “We cannot do our work without the communities' help and active participation." Ambassador Loftis is on a three-country tour of the region to have consultation with countries on issues related to avian and pandemic influenza. Arriving over the weekend from Indonesia, he traveled late Tuesday to Japan.
Ambassador Loftis also met with village health workers and animal health workers who provide community-based surveillance. They monitor potential cases of avian influenza in poultry or humans by visiting household, investigating rumors, and talking regularly with private sector informants, such as drug sellers and para-veterinarians. If the collaborators find a case that matches the case definition, they know how to report up through the commune to the district, provincial, and national levels.
The model village and community-based surveillance systems are implemented in Hung Yen with assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Avian Influenza Mekong Initiative, managed by Abt Associates Inc. Since 2006, USAID has provided support to Hung Yen to train animal and human health workers and local government officials in interventions that will help prevent and control outbreaks of avian influenza. Hung Yen is one of five USAID priority provinces where these interventions are being implemented. The others are Ha Nam, Quang Tri, Can Tho, and Kien Giang.
“Thanks to the project, the farmers are equipped with new knowledge so their poultry isn’t having as much disease. Many farmers are now seeing an increase in poultry production—by up to 90%,” said Khoa Nhu Village Chief Trinh Ke Kim.
The United States is the largest avian influenza donor in Vietnam, contributing $33.5 million between 2005 and 2008 to provide support to Vietnam for avian influenza prevention and control activities through USAID, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Additional avian influenza funding for 2009 is expected soon.