Speech by Andrew Speedy, FAO Representative in Viet Nam, at the International Workshop on Avian Influenza Research to Policy


Date: Thursday, June 16, 2008
International Workshop on Avian Influenza Research to Policy, Hanoi, Viet Nam
Speaker: Andrew Speedy, FAO Representative in Viet Nam

Your Excellency Vice Minister Dr Bui Ba Bong,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Morning.

First of all, allow me to thank the Government of Viet Nam, particularly the Ministry of
Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), the United States Department of
Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Agency for International Development
(USAID) for enabling us to organize this very important Meeting on International Avian
Influenza Research to Policy, where we will have presentations by both national and
international researchers.

Viet Nam was one of the first countries to report Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza
(HPAI) H5N1 at the end of 2003. Since the onset of the disease, there has been
evolution in the nature of the virus, the pattern of the spread of the disease and the
effects it has had on different types of poultry species.
With changes in the disease situation, policies and actions taken to contain the spread of
the virus have been modified and adapted over time. Numerous research activities and
studies have been conducted to enable us to have a better understanding of the
situation. This new and updated information from the field enables us to make better
informed decisions.

One clear example where research has played an important role in generating a better
understanding of the spread of H5N1 at the global level is the role of migratory birds.
Initially, many of us were very concerned about the spread of the virus through migratory
birds, but research has enabled us to have a better understanding of the role of these
birds. We now believe that movement of domestic poultry through legal and illegal
channels is a much bigger concern, leading to greater spread of the virus.

Had we not been able to gather and analyze the information in a timely manner, we
would not have been able to get to the root cause of the problem. It is therefore, very
important to have scientific and evidence based information. And it is even more
important to get the information translated into decisions and policies.
There have been many research activities and studies conducted in Viet Nam in the last
4-5 years, since the first outbreak of HPAI in the country. Some recent research we will
hear of in this workshop is related to:

The Government of Viet Nam has taken HPAI very seriously and has demonstrated

strong political commitment right from the very beginning. There has been ‘open door’
approach which has enabled national and international research agencies to undertake
field research and access the available data. With this, a number of research activities
and studies have been conducted in the country. However, what is even more important
for us is to make use of the information we obtain from this research, to influence
decisions that would lead to continued effective control of the disease.

Some of the underlying questions we should ask ourselves when delivering our research
findings are:

The science based strategy in Vietnam has proved to be successful in reducing the level
of the virus in the environment, shown by the reduced number of human cases (none
since March, as well as the incidence of disease in poultry which continues but at a
much reduced level. Vaccination has been effective but costly in terms of resources and
effort. The future strategy is clearly in question and decisions must be made. It is critical
that control and prevention of a.i. is maintained and that a sound, long term strategy is
confirmed. At stake are the livelihoods of millions of poultry farmers but also still the real
risk of a human pandemic.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Evidence has shown that decisions made on the basis of research findings are not only
effective but also save lives. It is important for us to be able to transform theoretical
research findings into decision making mechanisms. We need to keep in mind that policy
makers need just enough information to make informed decisions.
Lastly, I would like to reiterate that we need the right kind of information to reach the
right people at the right time in the right form. The significance of a research should be
judged by impact on strategy or policy, as well as publication in scientific literature.
I wish you all good health and a successful workshop.

Thank you.



For more information on the workshop, see the FAO Viet Nam website