By: Nourou Dia and Catherine Brahic


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[DAKAR] West African states agreed yesterday (23 February) to coordinate their response to the threat of bird flu with a regional emergency fund and plan of action.

The decision was announced at the end of a two-day meeting in Senegal of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Mauritania.


The meeting was convened to set up an observation network across West Africa to rapidly detect and test sick poultry.  It brought together agriculture and environment ministers from the region.


Participants proposed to create an emergency fund at the African Development Bank, and made an urgent call on international donors to contribute to it. But they gave no indication of a target figure for the fund.


They also called on international donors to help support the region's poultry industry.


In Niger, the poultry industry says sales have dropped by 50 to 60 per cent since the H5N1 flu virus was detected earlier this month in neighbouring Nigeria (see Nigeria reports Africa's first H5N1 bird flu outbreak).


Experts from several countries will devise a regional action plan, to be presented at an ECOWAS/Mauritania meeting at Abuja, Nigeria, in April.


"First of all we need laboratory analysis," Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade said in an interview with Reuters and the BBC.

He suggested countries bordering Nigeria such as Benin and Niger should have observation centres to help detect any spread of the disease, with centres also needed in Mali and Senegal.