A new pan-African initiative to combat bird flu was launched Tuesday in Dakar, Senegal, in a breakthrough partnership between the African Union and the European Union.
30 million euros (45 million dollars) of international funding has been pumped into the continent's fight against a disease which recognises no borders.
AdvertisementAt least 11 countries are known to be affected by the avian virus, Benin being the latest.
"We are trying to develop a strategic three-year action plan for the control and eventual eradication of the disease," said Dr Olaniran Alabi of the Inter-African Office for Animal Resources (BIRA), which organised the Dakar launch.
"We want to strengthen the surveillance system (...) improve on the public awareness and then improve our security," he added.
The last outbreak -- with Egypt and Nigeria worst affected -- was in October last year. Over 1.3 million birds have been destroyed since 2006 and over 15 million in total.
But BIRA's Dr Samuel Muriuki thinks the problem is growing, and he welcomed 30 million euros (45 million dollars) of international funding.
The sum is meant to help preventative measures among 47 of the 53 African Union members who have signed up to the Support Programme to Integrated National Action Plans for Avian and Human Influenza (SPINAP-AHI).
"It's never enough, because Africa is a big continent, and it faces special circumstances," Muriuki added.
"Because the poultry production system is very open, if the disease comes in, most of our veterinary services are fairly weak, we don't have enough resources to put all the things they need in place, even sometimes to employ enough people."
Since the first human cases were reported in 2003, at least 200 people have died from H5N1 contamination around the world, according to the UN World Health Organisation. Indonesia is the world's worst-hit country.