ADB Promoting Regional Cooperation on Transboundary Animal Diseases in Mekong Countries

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (4 March 2005) - ADB is helping five of the countries sharing the Mekong River to develop a regional cooperation framework on controlling transboundary animal diseases, including avian influenza, through a technical assistance (TA) grant approved for US$1 million.

The TA will build on existing activities in the Mekong with the aim of integrating them to focus on three of the most significant transboundary animal diseases - swine fever, foot-and-mouth disease, and highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

These diseases kill animals and reduce productivity, threaten livelihoods of poor smallholders, drain public sector resources, restrict trade, and overall hinder efforts to reduce poverty.

The TA will address common issues related to the control of the diseases, which are predominantly spread by animal movement across borders, in Cambodia, the People's Republic of China, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

Regional cooperation will foster strong partnership among all stakeholders and beneficiaries, including livestock farmers and traders, vets, extension workers, community health service providers, nongovernment organizations, veterinary departments, border control units, and private pharmaceutical companies.

"The immediate task is to develop a framework for regional cooperation, upgrade national and regional laboratories, and build staff capacity in the participating countries to control transboundary animal diseases," says Akmal Siddiq, an ADB Senior Project Economist.

"In the long term, this will enhance food security, safety, and promote greater trade in livestock and livestock products. The project represents a major shift toward control rather than the traditional approach of applying mass, blanket vaccination to control outbreaks, which has proven unsustainable and expensive."

Morbidity and mortality rates of livestock due the three diseases are often as high as 50-70% in many part of the Greater Mekong subregion (GMS), according to an ADB study.

Nearly 23 million people (70% of the poor people) in the GMS are smallholder farmers who depend on livestock for food and as a source of income.

Cross-border trade in livestock among GMS countries is significant and rising. For example, recent estimates from Yunnan Province of the PRC show that total annual trade in livestock and livestock products with Myanmar amounted to $365 million, Viet Nam $136 million, Thailand $32 million, Lao PDR $20 million and Cambodia $1 million.

"The TA aims to engage, for the first time the PRC as a key player and partner in the regional effort for transboundary animal disease control, as these diseases cannot be effectively controlled without its participation," Mr. Siddiq adds. "The PRC will also be a key player in supporting training for many of the poor countries in the region and funding most of its disease control projects."

Since it is well known that the source of infections for the three diseases is among poor smallholders, accurate mapping of diseases among these communities through sound epidemiological information and economic impact studies will ensure targeting of resources to benefit resource-poor farmers.

The TA is the first in a two-phased approach. Phase 2 will involve vaccination programs - in collaboration with the private sector - in preselected target disease control zones.

It will be complementary to ongoing livestock projects in the region supported by various aid sources.

The total cost of the TA is about $2 million equivalent, of which the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN will contribute $880,000 and the participating GMS countries will meet local costs amounting to about $120,000. It will be carried out over about two years to September 2006, with the ministries of agricultures the executing agencies through their respective departments of livestock.