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Cablegate: Nigeria October 18 Avian Flu Update

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ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 190916Z OCT 06 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7554
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHDC
RHFMISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUEHRN/USMISSION UN ROME 0030
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC//USDP/ASD-HD//
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 002777

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SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

USDA FAS WASHDC FOR FAA/RANDY HAGER
USDA FOR APHIS/JOHN SHAW
USDA FOR WAYNE MOLSTAD/OSEC
USAID/W FOR AFR/WA ANGELA LOZANO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KFLU TBIO AMED EAGR EAID NI AVIANFLU
SUBJECT: NIGERIA OCTOBER 18 AVIAN FLU UPDATE

REF: ABUJA 2539

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1. (SBU) Summary. The Government of Nigeria's (GON) response to an
avian influenza (AI) outbreak remains sluggish. A World Health
Organization (WHO) official said Nigeria's AI animal-surveillance
program already had fallen one month behind an optimistic schedule.
He said the GON's sense of urgency on AI was "really going down" and
that the GON's ability to absorb assistance was overtaxed. A UK
official observed that large poultry farmers have convinced the GON
to pursue less vigorous and less stringent programs to protect
against an avian flu outbreak. Moreover, he said it is unclear what
socioeconomic damage has already taken place because of Nigeria's
failure to document cases, and that international donors would not
succeed in pushing the GON to do more against the virus until
government officials provided more information. A UN Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) official said that since late August,
the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) had decontaminated 26 poultry
farms in Lagos State. End Summary.

GON's Response to AI Slows
--------------------------

2. (SBU) The GON's response to AI remains sluggish. Economic
officer attended the October 4 United Nations/foreign donors AI
meeting in Abuja, and met with representatives from the WHO, UK and
FAO. Mohammed Belhocine, WHO Representative in Nigeria, commented
that the country's national AI animal-surveillance program launched
on September 21 already had fallen one month behind an optimistic
schedule. He cited the Muslim Ramadan holiday and other reasons for
the delay. Belhocine said the GON's sense of urgency was "really
going down" even though the issue was becoming "more complex and
threatening." He also noted that the GON's ability to absorb
assistance was overtaxed. Belhocine, who previously had advocated
higher-level intervention on the issue by foreign donors and by the
GON itself, cautioned that donors must not push the GON too hard
"because it must be on board" any AI strategy if that response were
to succeed.

3. (SBU) Peter Hawkins, UK Department for International Development
(DFID) Officer, observed that large poultry farmers have succeeded
in causing the GON to pursue less vigorous and less alarming
programs against the avian flu. In addition, he said because the
socioeconomic damage that AI already had done in Nigeria remained
undocumented, international donors would not succeed in pushing the
GON to do more against the virus until this information became
known. Hawkins suggested that AI-related donations for the UN
organization were necessary to increase the UN's operational role at
the federal and state levels in Nigeria.

4. (U) WHO official Lola Sadiq said the less-pathogenic H3N1 human
influenza virus had possibly been identified in a person in Kano
city, by using a less-conclusive type of antibody test.
International health officials are concerned that the presence of
both the H3N1 and H5N1 viruses in Nigeria could potentially lead to
a recombination of the two, resulting in a highly dangerous human
flu strain.

5. (U) Tim Obi, FAO Nigeria AI Task Force Chief, told the meeting
that since late August, the MOA had decontaminated 26 poultry farms
in Lagos State. He said the MOA had used World Bank funds to
commission private veterinarians in Lagos State to carry out disease
surveillance.

New Policy on Compensation to Poultry Owners Pending
--------------------------------------------- -------

6. (U) Donor agencies are reviewing the GON's proposed integrated
national response plan covering the Ministries of Agriculture and
Health. The plan appears to contain inconsistencies concerning the
GON's proposed amount of compensation to be paid to poultry farmers.
World Bank official Simon Ehui said Nigeria planned to pay
different levels of compensation for different types of birds,
rather than the government's former figure of 250 naira (nearly
$2.00) per bird.

7. (SBU) On October 4 the GON held an AI Technical Committee

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(working level) meeting at which little new information was
presented and at which the MOA was poorly represented. The GON
scheduled a meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee for
October 5, but this later was canceled.

Comment
-------

8. (SBU) Although the FAO's schedule for its national AI
animal-surveillance program admittedly was optimistic, it is
disappointing that this program already is one month behind
schedule. Nigeria's commercial poultry sector, which is
well-connected politically, so far appears to have weathered the
worst effects of an AI outbreak, despite the GON's failure to take
strong preventive measures against the virus. Moreover, the fact
that the dire predictions regarding an AI outbreak have not
occurred, has led to decrease GON vigilance.

FUREY

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