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West African Ministers Formulate Plan To Combat Bird Flu

West African ministers have formulated a plan to combat the spread of avian influenza through that part of the continent. //The plan was agreed to during the one-day meeting of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) of ministers in charge of agriculture, health, livestock, environment and integration.

. A statement issued at the end of the meeting said that the ministers "examined and adopted the plan for a decision to create a sub-regional mechanism for coordinating the prevention and control of bird flu, for a sub-regional emergency intervention fund and a sub-regional strategic plan."

"The avian influenza pandemic is now the talk of the media. We are seeing this collective attention to the disease because with everyday that passes, it gains more ground and no country is safe from the disease," ECOWAS official Monisoye Afolabi said.

Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo sent in a speech that was read by his agriculture minister. He said in the speech that the nations must put in an united response to fight bird flu that had already hit Nigeria, Niger, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Cameroon in west Africa, Egypt in the north and Djibouti in the east.

"Considering the serious international danger on sub-regional economy where the agricultural sector remains the mainstay and a major employer of labour, the recent outbreak of avian flu in some states had deleterious effects on human livelihood and our community's food security," he said. "More frightening is the possibility of a human pandemic which may arise if proper controls and containment of the disease in the birds fail."

Nigeria was the first country in Africa to report the presence of bird flu in January 2006. Around 450,000 birds have either died or have been culled as a result of this outbreak.

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