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ASEAN countries, partners to scale up rabies elimination efforts

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HANOI, 4 December 2018 – More than 100 representatives from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Member States, regional and international organizations, including ASEAN, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and World Health Organization (WHO), donor agencies and other One Health partners have agreed to accelerate regional and country initiatives as they reiterated their commitment in tackling rabies during the ASEAN-Tripartite Rabies Meeting in Hanoi, 4-6 December.

"Viet Nam is delighted to host this important meeting. As a leading country in rabies prevention and control, Viet Nam has been the ASEAN regional focal point in the development of the ASEAN Rabies Elimination Strategy, as well as the action plan guiding its implementation. The country is also an active player in the strengthening of the collaboration mechanisms among ASEAN Member States through international conferences", jointly stated by Dr Tran Dac Phu, Director, General Department of Preventive Medicine (GDPM), Ministry of Health, and Dr Pham Van Dong, Director General, Department of Animal Health, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Viet Nam.

Although the ASEAN Rabies Elimination Strategy (ARES) had set a target for the elimination of human rabies in ASEAN by 2020, a number of ASEAN Member States may find it very difficult to achieve the goal. Rabies is still endemic in the canine population in majority of ASEAN Member States and nearly all of the human rabies cases are due to bites from rabid dogs. Controlling the disease in dogs through dog vaccination is the most cost-effective way to prevent human rabies.

"Successful rabies control programmes require a multi-sectoral, collaborative One Health approach. They require community participation, public awareness and education, and access to related health services in the human and animal sectors, including dog vaccination and human post-exposure prophylaxis. We commend the strong commitment of ASEAN Member States in collectively taking action against rabies. This regional initiative, coupled with individual country efforts, reflects that we are indeed 'United Against Rabies", Dr Albert Lieberg, FAO Representative in Viet Nam, Dr Ronello Abila, OIE Sub-Regional Representative for South East Asia, and Dr Kidong Park, WHO Representative in Viet Nam, added.

The participants will review and further develop a roadmap to fast-track the implementation of the ASEAN Rabies Elimination Strategy (ARES), a strategic framework for rabies control activities endorsed by health and agricultural ministers of ASEAN countries in 2014. FAO, OIE, and WHO will continue to provide technical advice on ARES implementation, including status monitoring. The participants are also expected to identify key regional and country actions for 2020 onwards, as well as the support potentially needed from partners.

Rabies causes approximately 59,000 of human deaths every year in over 100 countries, mostly affecting underserved communities with limited access to health and veterinary systems in Africa and Asia. In up to 99% of cases, domestic dogs are responsible for rabies virus transmission to humans through bites or scratches. In Viet Nam, human rabies has decreased from more than 400 cases in 1992 to less than 100 cases since 2016 due to strong government commitment and support from international partners. Political support and availability of human resources are critical factors to maintaining the momentum of rabies elimination effort.

FAO, OIE, WHO, and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) have established "United Against Rabies," a collaboration platform that has jointly developed the Global Strategic Plan to achieve "Zero human rabies deaths by 2030." ASEAN Member States will continue to work with the said organizations and other partners to bring an end to human deaths from dog-mediated rabies, as well as to call for stronger actions and participation in the "United Against Rabies" initiative.

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