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Cablegate: Congo/Brazzaville: Avian and Pandemic

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



DEPT for AF/C Madeeha Ashraf; AF/EX/PMO Lloyd Champ

E.O.12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Congo/Brazzaville: Avian and Pandemic
Influenza Preparedness

REFS: (A) STATE 209622; (B) STATE 206992

1. SUMMARY. In response to reftel A, post made inquiries to
various host government officials and representatives from
international organizations to assess the current posture
and readiness of the Government of the Republic of Congo
(ROC) to respond effectively to an outbreak of avian
influenza. Based on these conversations, it appears that
the ROC is ill-equipped to respond to an outbreak and
probably lacks the resources and public commitment to better
prepare without considerable international guidance and
support. That said, the ROC has been relatively effective,
though highly dependent upon the assistance of the
international community, with containing the roughly annual
outbreaks of Ebola in the north of the country. END

Q and A: Preparedness/Communications

2. Preparedness - Besides the recent banning of the import
of poultry, the government has no coordinated plan or
strategy for preventing avian flu from becoming a pandemic
should it come to the ROC. Some small efforts are underway
to inform and improve the capacity of the government to
respond should a crisis appear. The Ministry of Scientific
Research and Technical Innovations, in coordination with the
Ministries of Commerce and of Agriculture, Farming and
Fisheries, hopes to organize a workshop on avian influenza
by the end of November. Mr. Okombo Ngassaki, the
Agriculture General Director at the Ministry of Agriculture,
recently attended a workshop in Rwanda that sought to define
a common African strategy for combating avian flu and hopes
to bring insight from that experience to the workshop in

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3. Communications - In post's view, the government is likely
to be frank about any outbreak that might occur for the
pragmatic reason that if they were not, ROC would not
receive the assistance they would need from the
international community. The point of contact in the
government is the Minister of Agriculture, Farming and
Fisheries, Ms. Jeanne Dambenzet.

4. Priorities - While the government is taking some initial,
small steps towards better preparedness, avian influenza
does not appear to rank very high as a concern. The reason
for this is probably a combination of the fact that the
problem is not yet knocking at the country's doors as well
as the recognition that the ROC lacks the resources (both
financial and technical) to be effective on its own to fight
any potential outbreak.

5. Legal Frameworks - Besides the ban on poultry imports,
post knows of no effort to review national laws for
consistency with international health regulations.

6. Partnerships - The government has not actively engaged
with the international organziations or other countries on
the avian influenza issues. The government has, however,
worked effectively with international organizations and
other countries to combat other health crises, for example
the recent outbreak of Ebola (March/April 2005). The
government is likely to be very receptive to assistance from
international organizations or the USG, should such
assistance be offered.

7. The country does not currently administer annual flu
shots, nor does it have the resources to do so. There are
no known doses of the annual trivalent flu vaccine in
country, let alone any infrastructure for developing or
producing the same.

8. Except for what they hear on the TV or radio news, the
population is not well informed about the avian flu threat
Arguably, there are mixed reactions among the people. Some
are frightened, while others believe that it is only a
problem in Asia. Still others believe that it is the same
illness routinely seen among their poultry flocks and
believe it poses no threat to humans. On the other hand,
the people appear receptive to sensitization campaigns
(e.g., Ebola) by the government and international

Q and A: Surveillance/Detection

9. The ROC lacks the basic equipment, specialized
laboratories, and specialists themselves to conduct research
related to avian flu or to report properly on the scope of
any outbreaks. Normally, the government relies on
international organizations such as the WHO and UNDP for
assistance in bringing in equipment or specialists or for
getting samples to laboratories abroad for diagnosis.

Q and A: Response/Containment

10. As mentioned above (see paragraph 7), the ROC does not
have stockpiles of medication nor is there any indication
that the country plans to order any. The same would hold
true for protective gear.

11. There are not yet plans for culling or vaccinating birds
should an outbreak occur. The only proactive step the
government has taken thus far is the ban on imported

12. In the past, the government has been effective with
small-scale quarantines and social distancing measures. In
the event of serious need, the military could be called upon
to assist.

13. Please be advised that the Embassy Brazzaville TDY
Office currently has no access to IVG, OpenNet or GAL e-
mail. Embassy staff may be contacted via the following
personal e-mail accounts or cell phone numbers:

CDA Mark Biedlingmaier,
celtel: (242) 526-3562
ECON/CONS Chelsea Bakken,
celtel: (242) 528-7963
TDY MGT Susan Selbin,
celtel: (242) 525-7387

14. Brazzaville Embassy Office - Biedlingmaier.


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