Cablegate: Goss Avian Influenza Response Still Slow,

DE RUEHKH #2281/01 2611617
P 181617Z SEP 06




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: GoSS Avian Influenza Response Still Slow,
but Coming with International Support

REF: Khartoum 02203

1. (SBU) Summary: The Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) continues
to demonstrate a lack of urgency, coordination, and capacity in
dealing with the Juba avian influence (AI) H5N1 outbreak in poultry.
One AI task force meeting has been held, led by the Ministry of
Animal Resources and Fisheries (MARF), and another meeting is
scheduled for a week later. The Ministry of Health (MOH) has yet to
take a lead role in addressing potential human health risks. There
is no evidence of any human infections, but no human surveillance is
in place. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and
USAID in-country resources are coordinating with MARF and MOH on
community surveys on the extent of the outbreak and a public
information campaign. Additional USG assistance is expected this
week. FAO has been weak in coordinating with GOSS, other UN
entities and international donors. End summary.

--------------------------------------------- --
GoSS Avian Flu Task Force Meeting Held, Finally
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (SBU) The long awaited GoSS AI task force meeting was held
September 15 with no substantial participation at ministerial or
under secretary level by MARF or MOH. Both MARF and MOH under
secretaries attended briefly and left before discussion of an action

plan. MOH has yet to dedicate any staff to the AI task force. Key
AI task force participants included:

-- Dr. Agol Malak Kwal (chair), MARF director general;

-- Dr. Lul Riek, acting focal point for MOH (he is in Southern Sudan
on a USAID-funded diaspora return program to address HIV/AIDS

-- Dr. M. Yongolo, FAO (a consultant);

-- Dr. Thomas Boo, CDC, Nairobi rep.;

-- USG, European Joint Donor Office and EU agriculture reps;

-- UNICEF health officer; and

-- WHO and UN OCHA (brief attendance by both at staff level)

3. (SBU) The task force succeeded in establishing some interagency
cooperation among the participants, but no central incident command
structure was established. MARF DG agreed to the concept of a
coordinated command center, and USG participants expressed
willingness to help with implementation, including identifying work
space and communications equipment.

--------------------------------------------- ---
GoSS to Ban Bird Movement, Cull Poultry, Surveil
--------------------------------------------- ---

4. (SBU) MARF reported plans to ban movement of birds from Juba,
depopulate Juba town poultry, and initiate surveillance. MARF also
announced proposed plans to begin culling with compensation, but no
decision has been made yet on such actions. (Note: CDC doubts the
immediate feasibility of depopulation and a movement ban due to lack
of any functional mechanism. End note.)

5. (SBU) FAO has begun to lead an effort to obtain additional lab
specimens. On September 17, state MOH officials and Drs. Mugo Muita
and Diane Gross undertook a pilot household survey of about 60 homes
to collect data on the frequency of backyard poultry keeping, as
well as recent animal and human illnesses. While the full survey
data is being compiled, preliminary assessments reveal some bird
deaths over the last few months, although causes are uncertain, and
there have been no related human illnesses so far identified. MARF
is open to additional USG assistance and CDC and USAID reps are
assessing technical, logistical, and material support needs.

Public Information Campaign Commences

6. (SBU) Public information is a key area of concern, which CDC and
GoSS officials are attempting to address. In the short term, GoSS AI
task force has approved short radio public announcements in both
English and Juba Arabic and loudspeaker dissemination in Juba town
warning of the disease in poultry and directing the public to report
and dispose properly of any suspected animals. There is no
corresponding human illness information campaign, nor any
coordination with health workers. We anticipate that USAID and
UNICEF will begin to increase efforts to address this gap shortly.
A USAID-funded AI communications expert is expected to arrive in
Juba on September 18-19 to facilitate a more coordinated public
information campaign with the GOSS, UN and other members of
international community.

KHARTOUM 00002281 002 OF 002

7. (SBU) CG Juba will raise the issue with senior GOSS officials
during calls to be made the week of September 18 to press for rapid
response, dedicated MARF and MOH staff, and identification of needs
for coordinated international assistance. USAID will be sending Dr.
Martin Swaka, a health specialist in Khartoum, to serve as the point
of contact for ConGen assistance and coordination with GOSS on AI


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