Resource guide for UN Country Teams

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 has been with us for over 10 years. The virus made its first jump into humans in Hong Kong in 1997, infecting 18 people and killing six. Since its re-emergence in Asia in 2003, avian flu outbreaks have been confirmed in about 60 countries in domestic poultry or wild birds. To date, the virus has infected 387 people and killed 245 of them (October 2008); many of the dead are children and young adults. The highest number of cases has occurred in two countries: Indonesia and Viet Nam. Despite progress in preparedness, prevention and control, as well as overall reduction in outbreaks, HPAI continues to spread among poultry and other birds. The settings in which continued transmission of HPAI H5N1 occurs, where the virus is considered to be enzootic (or entrenched), are a cause of ongoing concern. They include Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria, and possibly some locations in Bangladesh and China. Continued transmission within poultry or other birds in any one country represents a threat to all countries. Avian influenza with a pandemic potential is a threat not only to people living in countries where the virus has become endemic, but to the world. While we are not sure whether H5N1 or another strain of the avian influenza virus might cause a pandemic, it is nonetheless important that we ensure countries around the world are equipped to fight the virus, if and when the virus attacks their poultry and people. Similarly, it is essential that the world is ready for a pandemic, no matter what shape and form the virus takes to ignite it. To effectively respond to this ongoing threat, the international community has been stepping up its efforts since 2005 through an agreed upon coordinated approach and financing framework. For the United Nations system, avian and human pandemic influenza: UN system contributions and requirements; a strategic approach was published in January 2006. This document states that “the heart of UN system influenza coordination is at the country level, led by resident coordinators who usually identify one person in their support office (or in the wider country team) to serve as the focal point”, which was reiterated by a letter from the UN Secretary-General in March 2006 requesting all the UN duty stations to designate an avian and human influenza coordinator. To date, UN Country Teams around the globe have been actively engaged in supporting national responses and preparedness through various types of coordination structures, mechanisms and activities.

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Resource guide for UN Country Teams [.pdf]