Since its emergence, H5N1 HPAI has attracted considerable public and media attention because the viruses involved have been shown to be capable of producing fatal disease in humans. While there is fear that the virus may mutate into a strain capable of sustained human-to-human transmission, the virus’ greatest impact to date has been the harm inflicted on the highly diverse poultry industries in some affected countries. HPAI control measures have so far focused on implementing prevention and eradication measures in poultry populations, with more than 175 million birds culled in Southeast Asia alone.
Until now, little emphasis has been placed on assessing the efficacy of risk reduction measures and their effects on the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and their families. In order to improve local and global capacity for evidence-based decision making on the control of HPAI (and other diseases with epidemic potential), which inevitably has major social and economic effect, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) funded a collaborative, multi-disciplinary HPAI research project for Southeast Asia and Africa.
The specific purpose of the project is to aid decision makers in developing evidence-based HPAI control measures at both national and international levels that will be cost-effective and efficient in reducing disease risk, and that will also protect and enhance livelihoods, particularly those of smallholder producers in developing countries, who are and will remain the majority of livestock producers in these countries for some time to come.
Project research teams have carried out a large number of research projects and studies in countries of the Mekong region relating to various aspects of HPAI and HPAI control. This document summarizes the findings of the three-year project and lays out their policy implications.