Avian and Human Influenza

Overview

The threat of an avian and human influenza pandemic is a concern shared globally, but a particular concern in South-east Asia. It is widely acknowledged that this region is one where a potential danger exists. Further, experts worldwide agree that a human influenza pandemic is no longer a question of if, but when.

Should a pandemic influenza hit Lao PDR, it will have drastic consequences not only for Lao PDR, but also globally. The level of preparedness in Lao PDR will therefore impact on the direction and consequences of a pandemic globally. Containment of an avian or human influenza virus at source is essential and the necessary resources to achieve this goal must be made available now. Sustained support for pandemic preparedness planning, for the effective implementation of the Government's national plan and support to the establishment and functions of national avian and human influenza coordination mechanisms are critical for a successful pandemic response.

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UN Support to National Preparedness

The Inter-ministerial National Committee on the Communicable Diseases and Control (CDC), chaired by the Prime Minister and supported by the Secretariat of the National Committee, is the central government body exercising leadership over the coordination of all Avian Influenza efforts.

The UN Country Team (UNCT) in the Lao PDR provides coordination support and technical assistance to the Government of the Lao PDR to strengthen the preparedness capacity of the various Ministries. A dedicated AHI Coordination Unit has been established within the Office of the Resident Coordinator to support the pandemic prevention and preparedness efforts in Lao PDR. The Coordination Unit supports the UNCT, Government and resident and non-resident donors in the coordination of financial, technical and other inputs. The Coordination Unit coordinates the multiple needs of the Government and partners, supporting their policymaking with regard to AHI and acting as a neutral knowledge and information management mechanism. UN AHI Coordination Unit maintains a close working relationship with the National Avian and Human Influenza Coordination Office (NAHICO).

Under the aegis of the Lao Government, the UN structure comprises the UN Resident Coordinator, the UN Cross-Sectoral Influenza Working Group, with executive support provided by the AHI Coordination Unit of the Office of the Resident Coordinator.

The UN Resident Coordinator accepts overall responsibility for avian and human influenza coordination support to the Government of Lao PDR and ensures that such coordination is carried out in neutral, effective and efficient manner, recognising the necessity of a cross-sectoral approach. The UN Cross-Sectoral Influenza Working Group supports the joint avian influenza response and promotes dialogue and timely information sharing among the key partners. The Group acts as an advisory committee for the coordination of joint efforts for pandemic prevention and preparedness, offering assistance to the Lao Government through its line Ministries, and the National Coordination Committee to Prevent Contagious Diseases.

While the Working Group is chaired by the UN Resident Coordinator, the FAO Representative has the main responsibility for support related to avian influenza in livestock and poultry and the WHO Representative will lead the efforts related to human health. UNICEF promotes the crosscutting focus on children and supports the development and implementation of an appropriate communications strategy. UNDP offers operational expertise, as required by various partners. In addition the Working Group consists of WFP, ADB and the World Bank.

The UN Cross-Sectoral Influenza Working Group meets twice monthly, or more frequently as required, to:

  • Review the current situation, with particular reference to planned and actual preventive measures, and to mitigate in supporting the Government in its national pandemic preparedness; and
  • Share key information and propose pandemic preparedness actions to the Government and its development partners, offer its expertise and advice for the use of the Government and donors in support of an effective pandemic response and coordinated donor efforts.

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National Pandemic Preparedness

The Government's National Avian Influenza Control and Pandemic Preparedness Plan spans over a period of five years, from 2006 to 2010, and was developed with technical assistance of a UN Inter-Agency team. It combines animal and human health interventions and encompasses the prevention and control of AHI in Laos as well as the preparedness and response in case of an influenza pandemic.

It is based on the following 5 strategies:

  • Strategy 1: Development of Disease free avian influenza management
  • Strategy 2: Disease surveillance and Response in Humans during outbreak
  • Strategy 3: Laboratory and Curative Care
  • Strategy 4: Health education and Community Action
  • Strategy 5: Strengthening of Institutional and Legal Frameworks

Click here to view the National AHI Plan in Lao or English.

The National Avian and Human Influenza Coordination Office (NAHICO) is assigned to act as the secretariat of the National Committee on the Communicable Diseases and Control in situation analysis, data collecting and analysis, presentations and planning, and overall coordination and management of AHI efforts in Lao PDR.

The roles of NAHICO also include:

  • Coordination with different partners/sectors in central and local level to enhance and develop the National Avian Influenza Control and Pandemic Preparedness Plan into action
  • Advocating the Avian Influenza Control and Pandemic Preparedness Plan to related partners/sectors in central and provincial level
  • Following-up and reviewing the data and information collected in each stage regarding the contribution from International Organisation, Embassies and other sectors to the Avian Influenza Control and Pandemic Preparedness Plan
  • Reviewing and assessing the implementation of the National Avian Influenza Control and Pandemic Preparedness Plan in each stage as well as analysing the transformation of disease and inform the Secretariat of the National Committee on the Communicable Diseases and Control
  • Reviewing and assessing the usage of funds in each project and inform the Secretariat of the National Committee on the Communicable Diseases and Control
  • Coordinating and working together with the UN system, Embassies and other organisations within and outside the country regarding the control and pandemic preparedness

A Partners' Group for Avian and Human Influenza has been established to bring together the Government and the key international partners supporting the implementation of the national plan, acting as a mechanism for coordinated and harmonized joint efforts.

The Partners' Group is chaired by the Minister of Health. The UN Resident Coordinator acts as a Vice-Chair, and executive support is provided by NAHICO and UN AHI Coordination Unit. The membership comprises of the AHI Focal Points from key line Ministries, UN Agencies and key donors and international partners.

The Partners' Group meets on quarterly basis, or more frequently as required, to:

  • Provide a forum for sharing information.
  • Serve as an instrument for constructive policy dialogue among partners
  • Facilitate the Government's coordination role within the framework of the national plan
  • Facilitate monitoring and evaluation of AHI programmes in Lao PDR.

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UN Pandemic Preparedness

The UN system in the Lao PDR has prepared its first staff contingency plan for an influenza pandemic in July 2005, and continues to regularly revise and update its plans and level of preparedness. Comprehensive guidelines on food safety and personal precautions to protect personnel in the event of a Human and Avian influenza outbreak have been developed.

AHI Guidelines in:

E-mail us at : unahicoordination.laopdr@undp.org

Related Links

UN Web portal on avian and human pandemic influenza

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