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Avian Influenza Project Story

Avian Influenza Project moll
Albania: strengthen the country’s public health and veterinarian
systems to prevent an outbreak

Albania’s poultry population is estimated to be around 6.3 million, of which 85% is reared as free-range poultry on small household farms across the country. Further, more than half of the 323 wild bird species in the country are considered migratory, frequently visiting wetlands that border on farming communities.  Albania was considered as an “Imminent Risk Case” for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) as two outbreaks of HPAI had been discovered among domestically reared poultry in March 2006. Building on prior work conducted by the Albanian government, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other UN agencies, that all mounted the technical response to Albania’s avian influenza crises, the World Bank provided critical assistance in the form of a financing framework.  An International Development Associations Credit and a Policy and Human Resources Development Grant  were provided. The Bank brought as well its experience and lessons learned assisting other countries facing similar threats under the Global Program for Avian Influenza (GPAI).
The spread of avian influenza  among domestic poultry would have a serious effect on Albania’s economy, particularly in rural areas, where poverty rates are higher. After facing and eradicating the first two outbreaks with its own structure and funds, many challenges remain in the government . Namely, the need to invest in new structures with the necessary mandates and authorities; communicate the messages needed to prevent HPAI outbreaks and control the spread of the disease among the population and encourage farmers to participate in culling schemes  as needed; and strengthen the country’s public health and veterinarian systems to prevent an outbreak.
As in all other countries where the Bank had supported AI prevention and control, the approach has been to address the needs of all the main sectors the disease would impact.  Thus, the project’s design aimed to support three areas: (i) prevention, (ii) preparedness and planning, and (iii) response and containment, throughraising public awareness about the disease and risk of transmission and supporting two national programs to control animals’ health and humans’ health to reduce the impact of the pandemic virus 2.
The project is scheduled to be closed in December 2010. Main achievements are:
  • Public awareness and information on A/H5N1 has sharply increased as shown by the knowledge, attitude and practice survey , both in terms of recognizing signs in affected animals and knowing and preventing ways of transmission to other poultry, as well as transition to humans.
  • The National Veterinary Epidemiological Unit (NVEU) has been established, equipped and staff trained.
  • A database on the epidemiological situations for 13 diseases present in Albania including:  anthrax, tuberculosis, brucellosis, and classical swine.
  • 100% of the veterinary field staff has been trained in diagnosis, investigation and control methods for HPAI and other diseases such as Brucellosis, Newcastle, and Classic Swine Fever.
  • Testing capacity and bio-safety level of the Institute of Food Safety and Veterinary has been upgraded, in order to enhance disease surveillance and monitoring.
  • Molecular diagnostic for the identification of pandemic viruses  as A/H5N1 and swine flu A/H1N1 and strengthening the health system to better mitigate pandemics, can now be carried out at the new virology laboratory of the IPH. Since its inauguration in October 2009 the lab has tested more than 4,000 samples and has received from reference laboratory 100% confirmation rate. The laboratory is now part of the European Influenza Surveillance Network supported by WHO.
  • Albania is better prepared to address potential pandemics or any other emergency situation. The Tirana University Hospital Intensive Care Unit is fully operational and since its inauguration on December 2009 has treated more than 150 patients. The ICU is managing a wide range of cases in need of intensive care, pulmonary ventilation, including tetanus, meningitis, sepsis, =
    The National Preparedness Pandemic Plan has been prepared under technical support of WHO.

The IDA team worked closely with (i) the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Consumer Protection, and the Ministry of Health which were the two main implementation agencies as well as with the established Task Force and its Secretariat; (ii) all the main development partners as WHO, UNICEF, UNDP, USAID and FAO, with whom all activities were closely coordinated, also thru the Communication Working Group on.
As seen during the life of the project, close cross sector cooperation among the different stakeholders – Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Consumers Protection, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Water Administration, Ministry of Education – is key for the success of the activities when fighting infectious diseases and zoonoses  at source. The future will require the One Health concept, integrating animal and human health systems, institutionally, technically and financially, in order to fight emerging diseases with origins in animals, address persistent traditional zoonoses , as well as food safety and nutritional security.


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