Mr Speaker, I beg to move,
Pursuant to article 103 (3) of the 1992 Constitution and Order 176 of the Standing Orders of the House, the Rt Hon Speaker directed the Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs to conduct an enquiry into the outbreak of the Avian Influenza in Ghana, and to make recommendations to the House for funding of an emergency response to combat the outbreak.
The directive followed a Statement made by the Chairman of the Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs, Hon Gabriel Kodwo Essilfie, on 2nd July, 2015, drawing the attention of the House to the outbreak of the Avian influenza and the challenges confronting the Ministry of Food and Agriculture in dealing with the outbreak.
The Committee subsequently met with key stakeholders on the 3rd, 6th and 7th July, 2015 and deliberated on the outbreak. The Committee is grateful to the Deputy Minister in charge of Livestock in the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Hon Hanna Louisa Bissiw, the Chief Director of the Ministry and Mr Ken Quartey of the Ghana National Poultry Farmers Association for their input.
In considering the referral, the Committee made reference to the following documents:
i. The 1992 Constitution of Ghana;
ii. The Standing Orders of the Parliament of Ghana.
In order to provide the House with detail and concise information on the outbreak, the Committee decided to adopt the following methodology:
i. Enquire into the nature of the disease and extent of the spread;
ii. Enquire into previous outbreaks and lessons learned;
iii. Enquire into measures considered by the Ministry to control the outbreak and funding requirements;
iv. Draw observations and recommenda- tions.
The Nature of the Disease and Extent of the Spread
The Avian influenza, commonly known as Bird Flu, is an infectious viral disease of birds. Most of these viruses do not affect humans but other viruses such as A (H5N1) and A (H7N9), can cause serious infections in humans.
The disease is transmitted to humans through direct or indirect contact with infected live or dead birds. There is no evidence, however, that the disease can be spread to people through properly cooked poultry and poultry products. Controlling the disease in birds is always the first step in decreasing the risk of infection to humans.
The disease was first reported in the West Africa sub-region in 2006, with Ghana reporting its first case in 2007. The disease re-emerged in the sub-region in 2014, with Nigeria reporting the first case in December, 2014. This was followed by outbreaks in Niger, Burkina Faso, la Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana.
Ghana confirmed her first case on a farm in the Greater Accra Region on 12th May, 2015. Thereafter, there have been confirmed cases in two other regions namely, Volta and Ashanti.
Previous outbreak and lessons learned
As indicated earlier, the last outbreak of the disease in Ghana was in 2007, which was brought under control in 2008. In responding to the outbreak in 2007, the Committee was informed that there was inter-sectorial collaboration, especially between the Ministry and the Information Services Department of the then Ministry of Information, in disseminating infor- mation to farmers and the public.
The use of information vans, with public address systems of the Information Services Department went a long way in increasing awareness of the disease.
In addition, Government guaranteed the payment of compensation to all affected farmers. The payment of compensation encouraged farmers to report early signs of the disease, without fear of possible destruction of their birds and the attendant loss of revenues.
During the 2007 outbreak, the European Union (EU) and other development partners donated fourteen (14) pickups, three (3) cross country
vehicles, one hundred and thirty-five (135) motorbikes and other logistical items to support the exercise.
The Emergency Plan and Funding Requirements
The Committee noted that a detail and comprehensive nationwide Emergency Plan and Funding (Budgetary) require- ments have been prepared by the Ministry to deal with the outbreak. The plan involves undertaking activities in the following areas:
Enhance Rapid Outbreak Detection and Implementation of Containment Measures
This area would require the purchase of reagents for detection of the disease, sample test at the World Health Animal Organisation and FAO Laboratories, culling of affected birds and the proper disposal of the carcasses, disinfection of the affected farms, among others. The total budget under this area proposed by the Ministry is estimated at Gh¢2,800,000.00.
The Committee conducted an in-depth scrutiny of the activities and inputs and is of the opinion that the amount is reasonable for the achievement of the expected deliverable.
Active Surveillance of Domestic Poultry and Wild Bird Populations for Rapid Detection of Spill Overs
Activities to be undertaken in this area include the movement of surveillance teams to poultry farms and wild bird sanctuaries nationwide to assess possible occurrence of the disease.
It would also involve the purchase of sampling analysis materials such as rapid antigen detection kits and other essential reagents, Global Positioning System (GPS) and other molecular diagnosis consumables. An amount of Gh¢832,390.00
is estimated for this output area. However, upon careful examination of the activities against the estimated amounts, the Committee is recommending an amount of GH¢670,300.00. The Committee believes some of the activities could be coordinated in a more efficient manner to reduce cost.
Sensitization of the Public
To increase awareness and ensure prompt reporting of suspected outbreaks as well as enforcement of on-farm biosecurity systems, the Ministry proposes educational seminars for key stakeholders such as farmers, bird market traders, processors et cetera. Educational and awareness creation posters and flyers would also be developed.
Media interactions would also be intensified. A total amount of Gh¢1,295,000.00 has been estimated for the activities under this sub-component.
The Committee is of the opinion that some of the activities should be pooled together and conducted at the zonal level to reduce cost. The Committee therefore recommends an amount of Gh¢1,195,000.00 after critical analysis.
Laboratory Capacity Building and Diagnosis
Activities under this sub-component include training of Regional and District Veterinary Staff on disease recognition and reporting, biosafety measures in sampling and in modern diagnosis of Avian influenza. The estimated budget for this output area by the Ministry is
The Committee noted that during the outbreak in 2007, the African Union, IBAR and the USAID, supported the Ministry in training a number of Veterinary Officers
on the disease. The Committee is therefore of the opinion that, an amount of GH¢450,000.00 would be adequate to train new officers and for refresher courses for the old staff.
Border Harmonisation Meetings with Neighbouring Countries
Since the disease is trans-boundary in nature, international best practices require all affected neighbouring countries, to harmonise their activities to achieve holistic control, eradication and prevention. Under this output, the Ministry intends to have a series of meetings with key stakeholders from Togo, Burkina Faso and la Cote d'Ivoire, to map out a common strategy to deal with the outbreak.
An amount of GH¢650,000.00 was budgeted by the Ministry for the border meetings.
Upon further discussions with the Ministry, it was agreed that, an amount of GH¢300,000.00 would be adequate for the current emergency.
The Committee was informed that, the Veterinary Services Directorate was currently challenged with logistics such as equipment for its regional laboratories and vehicles for monitoring. To upgrade the regional laboratories and to enhance the movement of personnel and equipment for effective sampling and analysis, an amount of GH¢5,300,000.00 was proposed by the Ministry. Out of this figure, GH¢3,000,000.00 was earmarked for the procurement of 20 vehicles.
It was the opinion of the Committee that the 20 vehicles were on the high side. The Committee advised the Ministry to collaborate with other MDAs to mobilise some vehicles to support the campaign.
The Committee therefore, recommends the purchase of twelve (12) pickup vehicles instead of the twenty (20) vehicles proposed by the Ministry.
The Committee's recommendation was informed by lessons from the previous outbreak. It was noted that during the 2007 outbreak, the European Union donated fourteen (14) pickups, three (3) cross-country vehicles and one hundred and thirty-five (135) motorbikes to the Ministry.
The proposed budget for this sub- component is therefore GH¢3,619,700.00.
Compensation for Farmers
The Committee noted that a provision of GH¢2,000,610.00 has been made as
compensation to farmers whose farms may be destroyed as part of the measures to control the outbreak. The amount represents estimated compensation for about 75,000 birds and other poultry products. The figure of 75,000 represents 0.0125 per cent of the total poultry population of about 60,000,000.
The Committee acknowledges that, the current figure of culled birds of 33,000 recorded in the Greater Accra and Volta Regions is likely to increase, once the compensation package comes into effect and farmers start reporting early signs of the disease to the Ministry. The Committee was informed that payment of compensation during the last outbreak helped in controlling the outbreak. The Committee therefore, is of the view that payment of the compensation would be in the right direction.