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For fairly use
Remarks of Andrew Vorkink at the Conference on Avian Influenza Bio-security
Bridging the Knowledge Gap to Facilitate Public-Private Partnership

Movenpick Hotel, Istanbul - June 2, 2006.

Distinguished guests from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, representatives from other Ministries, and partners from commercial and other civil society organizations.

It gives me great pleasure to be able to address this particular meeting which is gathering the representatives from Government, the poultry industry and other interested parties to consider priorities for enhancing private-public partnerships in dealing with the challenges of Avian Influenza.  We hope to be able to share examples based on IFC clients' valuable operational and commercial lessons as well as those lessons emerging from the World Bank Group's broader global participation in formulating Avian Influenza Preparedness and Response programs.

This meeting comes at an important time, as Turkey is refining its strategy in dealing with the regional presence of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza by scaling up its preparedness in both the human health and animal health areas and by developing approaches to stabilize the poultry sector.  In many instances, the key to the success of these efforts will be the degree to which the general public is made more actively aware of the mounting body of knowledge regarding Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.  With this awareness, risky behaviors by individuals and enterprises can be corrected, and the public will gradually develop greater assurance that the consumption of poultry products is much safer than it currently believes. So above all, it is crucial to make messages to the public clear and consistently delivered by both the private and public sector. I believe therefore that one of the key aims of this consultation should be to target better communications between the private and public sectors. This will have a positive impact not only directly on the poultry industry and consumers but on collaterally affected industries like tourism in Turkey, which has suffered from incorrect information about the risks from Avian Influenza.

Though it is true that there is a risk of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza evolving from a zoonotic disease transferable from animals to humans to one that has a potential for wide-scale human-to-human transmission, there are no indications that we are at this stage yet.  Cases of Avian Influenza in humans are occurring each year with increased frequency as the disease spreads, but we are currently far from a pandemic situation and must make use of this time to build up the public's focused but sober attention to Avian Influenza.  If this can be achieved, then the public's ability to understand and believe in the lessons from a growing body of knowledge about the disease can be translated into lower risks for the commercial sector, for the general population, and indeed the world community as a whole.

Still, we should recognize that the economic and social impacts from a pandemic could be large - dwarfing the recent impact on the poultry sector and including large-scale loss of livelihoods as well as lives.  Again, however, the more the public can be induced to take a realistic attitude towards Avian Influenza today, the more ready it will be to respond to the greater complexities in the future if and when a pandemic situation were to arise.  The approach being taken under the Avian Influenza Preparedness and Response projects is exactly this one - raising the private and public sectors' logistical, and organizational readiness and building the public's’ capacity to notice and digest an ever more complex set of messages about Avian Influenza.

The coordinated response required involves three types of strategic activities: (i) preventing the occurrence and spread of the disease in domesticated animals, thus lowering the potential of the virus to spread in the environment, (ii) preventing and/or mitigating the effects of an outbreak in humans, and (iii) in the event of a pandemic, helping affected populations cope with its effects.  Thus, Turkey needs to constantly refine its approach in undertaking these three sets of activities, which include both immediate measures as well as a medium-term strategy. Some of the key issues which need to be addressed and next steps taken include the following;

First, successfully preventing and controlling Avian Influenza requires a multi-sectoral approach, including those in the areas of health, agriculture, environment, economics, finance, and planning, among others.  At the country level, in particular, an integrated and inter-sectoral response is needed, based on shared objectives in both the animal health and human health dimensions as well as appropriate social measures (including, mass communication strategies, transport restrictions, and possible quarantines).  In this regard, Turkey’s course of actions taken after earlier outbreaks constitutes a strong response, but there is still scope for improved inter-sectoral coordination.

An appropriate balance between short and long-term actions is also needed. The immediate to short-term objective is to reduce the risk to humans by preventing further spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza in affected regions.  This is to be targeted through improved policy and investments to increase bio-safety in production and marketing of poultry products, especially in geographically high risk zones or past outbreak areas.  Turkey is currently devising the detailed operational procedures for a number of such programs and has already successfully launched other earlier this year.  The long-term challenge is to progressively increase the level of control over Avian Influenza and aim for eradication of the disease.  Achieving this goal will increase human and food safety, stabilize poultry production, enhance a robust regional and international trade in poultry products, and diminish the global threat of a human pandemic.  

Global and regional aspects of the response also need to be addressed and coordinated.  Actions to secure borders and control international trade and travel in the event of a pandemic, and measures to limit the effects of disease transmission by migratory birds, are trans-boundary issues which require regional and international coordination.  Being successful here will in turn require quite a lot of up-front consultation and planning with neighboring countries and more widely regionally and internationally.  Regional and global efforts should build on existing mechanisms such as the joint Global Framework for Progressive Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases (a joint FAO/OIE initiative) and the joint OIE/World Bank initiative for the Prevention and Control of Global Emerging and Re-emerging Diseases of Animal Origin.  I am happy to have learned that in both these areas, Turkey is taking an active, participatory role.

As I noted earlier, World Bank has worked with Turkey in elaborating the Avian Influenza and Human Pandemic Preparedness and Response Project, which is a joint program between the Government of Turkey, the European Union, the World Bank, and USAID.  Here, I am pleased to report that the World Bank and the Republic of Turkey signed an agreement for a $35 million loan recently on May 17 as part of Turkey's $55 million project to stem the spread of Avian Influenza and to prepare for any future outbreaks, should they occur. Turkey's program is a model response among global efforts and is already being replicated by other countries in the region as a comprehensive, well planned effort to deal with Avian Influenza.

In addition, the International Finance Corporation is addressing the important challenges of Avian Influenza by focusing on support to the private sector in promoting bio-security in commercial poultry. This is under the IFC's incubation of new "bio-businesses", a program which helps develop markets for businesses that use bio-security as their business platform.  So, we look forward to hearing of the results of this important consultation in contributing to the worthy goal of establishing a bridge between public and private sectors for improving bio-security in dealing with Avian Influenza in Turkey.

With proper planning and implementation Avian Influenza can be controlled if not eradicated. Its impact on health, poultry and food industry and commerce can be contained by prudent measures which have already been shown to be effective, including in Turkey. But dispelling some of the myths about Avian Influenza is an important aspect of a successful campaign to reduce the adverse effects of Avian Influenza. I hope today's conference will help bridge the knowledge gap about Avian Influenza so that this disease can move from the present reality to history.

Thank you.


Arsev Umur Aydinoglu
Public Information Assistant
World Bank Turkey Office

Summer 2006
Issue# 18
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