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Cablegate: Same Latitude, Different Attitude: Prosperity Trumps Party

VZCZCXRO3338
PP RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHHM #1250/01 3511036
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P R 171036Z DEC 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3464
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI 2375
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0033
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 3683

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 001250

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, EAP/EP, INR, OES/STC, OES/IHA, MED
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR ANE AND GH
COMMERCE FOR 4431/MAC/AP/OPB/VLC/HPPHO
HHS/OSSI/DSI PASS TO OGHA (WSTIEGER/LVALDEZ/CHICKEY)
FIC/NIH (GLASS), FDA (MPLAISER)
CDC FOR OGHA (BLOUT/MCCALL) ABD DIV-FLU (COX/MOHEN)
USDA PASS TO APHIS, FAS (OSTA AND OCRA), FSIS
BANGKOK FOR RMO, CDC (MMALISON/SMALONEY), USAID/RDM/A
(CBOWES/JMACARTHUR), APHIS (NCARDENAS), REO (JWALLER)
BEIJING FOR HHS HEALTH ATTACHE (BROSS)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TBIO ECON EAGR ELAB PREL PGOV OTRA OVIP SENV VM
SUBJECT: SAME LATITUDE, DIFFERENT ATTITUDE: PROSPERITY TRUMPS PARTY
LINE IN TWO VIETNAM PROVINCES' BATTLE AGAINST AVIAN INFLUENZA

REF: A. HANOI 1920 B. HANOI 1793

HO CHI MIN 00001250 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: Ben Tre and Tra Vinh provinces share similar
geographies and demographics, as well as outbreak histories for
highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI). While both provinces
still suffer scattered small-scale AI outbreaks, better economic
governance in Ben Tre has led to a shift from backyard
operations to larger-scale commercial poultry operations that
are better able to prevent the virus from entering the poultry
production chain. Ben Tre's better governance means more
effective short-term results (2007 industry loses are a rounding
error compared to 2004 losses) and a brighter long-term
prognosis in the fight against AI. End summary.

Poultry Losses Down Drastically in Ben Tre

------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) ConGen EconOffs met with provincial agency officials
responsible for human and animal AI in Ben Tre and Tra Vinh
provinces in southern Vietnam during a November 26th to 28th
visit: the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
(DARD), the Animal Health Bureau (AHB), the Department of Health
(DOH), and the Preventive Medicine Center (PMC). Ben Tre
officials provided a detailed, statistical overview of the
effects of AI on the poultry industry. Since the first AI
outbreaks in 2003, culling and losses to disease have more than
halved the fowl population to a current total of 2.3 million
birds. In 2004, AI broke out in 71 communes in seven of the
province's eight districts, resulting in 1.1 million dead or
culled fowl and 2.4 million eggs destroyed. In 2005, outbreaks
in 47 communes in seven districts claimed 700,000 poultry, while
earlier this month, in the last of two outbreaks since 2005, a
small, family-raised flock of two month old unvaccinated ducks
was culled.

3. (SBU) Ben Tre Officials attributed their success in
decreasing outbreaks to a broad-based control and prevention
regimen in which various government agencies and mass public
organizations collaborated. Traveling cultural performances
(i.e., 'AI operas') and commune-level radio programs were the
most effective components of the public awareness campaign.
This year's first two vaccination rounds inoculated 80 and 95
percent of the provincial poultry flock, respectively. While
the vaccine is provided by the central government, the province
charges larger farms 2000 Vietnam dong (VND) (approximately USD
0.12) per injection, and subsidizes smaller farms. Farmers
obtain financial assistance -- officials deliberately avoid the
term 'compensation' to stress farmers' responsibility for the
health of their flocks -- equaling 30 to 50 percent of market
value for culled poultry. Officials described the appearance of
23 large scale poultry operations since 2003 as a positive
development, as AI is more readily prevented and controlled in
large concentrated flocks than in dispersed poultry.

4. (SBU) Medical personnel at Ben Tre's general hospital showed
EconOffs the eight bed AI isolation ward (currently used for
dengue fever patients), two respirators and 50 bio-isolation
suits, the sum of human AI treatment equipment for this province
of 1.3 million. Health officials noted that although Ben Tre
suffered only one human AI fatality in the last year, the
province remained vulnerable to outbreaks because of high
population density and poor hygiene.

Tra Vinh Holds to the Party Line

--------------------------------


HO CHI MIN 00001250 002.2 OF 002


5. (SBU) Tra Vinh DARD, AHB, DOH, and PMC officials described
animal AI efforts in detail, but provided no statistics, except
to say that the province spent four billion VND in 2004 on AI
prevention and control. Officials repeatedly stressed that the
key to their successful AI control program was strict adherence
to nationwide GVN guidelines. In accordance with those
guidelines, the central government provides vaccines, as well as
honoraria for vaccinators. Although during a meeting DARD
stated that the most recent October 2007 outbreak was inevitable
because AI was endemic in the region, an AHB official at an
outbreak site visited later identified an uncertified hatchery
as the specific AI source. Consolidation of the poultry
industry has not taken place in Tra Vinh because of a lack of
private or public capital. Tra Vinh's most recent human AI
fatality occurred in August 2005.

Comment

-------

6. (SBU) It is noteworthy that while the most recent AI
outbreak in Ben Tre was in an unvaccinated backyard flock, the
source of the last outbreak in Tra Vinh was an uncertified
hatchery, a much more serious lapse in control of the poultry
production chain. Enabled by a higher degree of prosperity, the
ongoing consolidation of the poultry industry taking place in
Ben Tre offers the real prospect of eventual control of the AI
virus, a remote possibility for the impoverished backyard
chicken farmers of Tra Vinh. End comment.

7. This cable was coordinated with Embassy Hanoi.


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