Guyana, FAO partner to improve emergency response to zoonotic diseases

The Guyana Livestock Development Authority (GLDA) and the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have commenced a three-day simulation exercise on High Pathogenicity Avian Influenza (HPAI) to improve Guyana’s emergency response capacity to zoonotic diseases.

The intense discussions which got underway Monday morning at Rayne Inn, Rahaman’s Park, East Bank Public Road, will generate observations and suggestions on the strengths and weaknesses of preparation during a field exercise.

GLDA’s Chief Executive Officer (ag) Dr Dwight Walrond

HPAI is a disease that requires a rapid response as it is highly contagious and often fatal to chickens. 

GLDA’s Chief Executive Officer (ag), Dr Dwight Walrond underscored that simulation forums are a part of the entity’s annual work programme since Guyana constantly tests its preparedness against exotic diseases.

The GLDA, Dr Walrond added, has always been dedicated to ensuring the prevention and reduction in the spread of zoonotic diseases, while guaranteeing Guyana’s food security.

Persons attending the simulation exercise paying keen attention to the presenter

For context, these diseases also referred to as zoonoses, result from microorganisms that transfer from animals to humans.

“Some of the outcomes which we will be expecting… for us at GLDA [is] the increase in trade and to improve on transparency with respect to the animal health sector, that is one of the key areas for us. And when I speak of trade, I’m speaking to local and international trade,” the CEO disclosed.

Importantly, he anticipates that the disease preparedness manual would be updated following the exercise, to ensure there is a stronger working document.

Meanwhile, FAO Representative, Dr Gillian Smith believes that as Guyana continues to make tremendous progress as part of its ambitious agenda, it is important for emergency plans to be implemented.

FAO Representative, Dr Gillian Smith

To this end, Dr Smith commended the undertaking and stated, “when we plan ahead of time… for emergencies, we have a better opportunity to be able to emerge from that at least with our heads high and with the capacity to keep moving forward. We have the opportunity to ensure that we don’t lose the momentum that we have gained.”

The FAO has been working with the Ministries of Agriculture and Health on an important one-health capacity to strengthen Guyana’s veterinary service. This undertaking consists of three main parts.

“The last part of this project is what we are doing here today, the focus is on zoonotic disease prioritisation… so we are very happy to be doing that. You will know better than I…the impact that avian influenza can have on Guyana, on the economy of Guyana, on the progress that Guyana is making,” Dr Smith stated.

Persons attending the simulation exercise paying keen attention to the presenter

Additionally, the interactive session forms part of the government’s push to establish an ardent health policy, aimed at harmonising and advancing the nation’s food chain towards achieving international food standards, among other things.

Attending the forum were representatives of the Ministry of Health, University of Guyana, Guyana Defense Force, private stakeholders and several agencies within the ambit of the agriculture ministry.

The exercise is scheduled to end on March 16.