April 2010 Continental launch of the EPT programme for Africa


Dr. Denis Carroll, Director of the EPT programme (USAID) (c) P. Bastiaensen (OIE) 2010

Kampala and Kinshasa were host to the official launch of the USAID-funded “Emerging Pandemic Threats” programme on April 27th and 30th respectively. This five-year, very comprehensive programme, worth USD 500 million, is intended to address several aspects related to human health threats from emerging potentially pandemic pathogens, and it is made up of five individual, but closely interconnected projects : PREDICT, PREPARE, PREVENT, RESPOND, and IDENTIFY. It endeavours to put the One World, One Health principles to practice..

Indeed, the speed with which diseases of animal origin that pose a risk to humans - including HIV/AIDS, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), H5N1 avian influenza, and the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus - can emerge and spread across the increasingly interconnected globe presents enormous public health, economic, and development concerns. This threat underscores the need for a comprehensive, proactive approach that draws on a wide array of technical resources to build sound detection and response capacity. USAID's EPT programme will focus resources on detecting dangerous pathogens at an early stage, building appropriate laboratory capacity to support surveillance, responding in an appropriate and timely manner, strengthening national and local response capacities, and educating at-risk populations on how to prevent exposure to these dangerous pathogens. The EPT programme is being managed by USAID with technical support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Agriculture.

The EPT programme is a comprehensive and interconnected intervention package that will be implemented through five projects, each requiring specific technical skill sets, but which will work harmoniously together to provide seamless technical assistance and expertise in the field. The five projects in the EPT programme are as follows:

PREDICT: USAID has awarded a five-year cooperative agreement to a constellation of leading experts in wildlife surveillance including University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Wildlife Conservation Society, Wildlife Trust, The Smithsonian Institute, and Global Viral Forecasting, Inc. to monitor for and increase the local capacity in "geographic hot spots" to identify the emergence of new infectious diseases in high-risk wildlife such as bats, rodents, and non-human primates that could pose a major threat to human health. This award builds on our current monitoring of wild birds for the H5N1 influenza virus to more broadly address the role played by wildlife in facilitating the emergence and spread of new disease threats.

RESPOND: USAID has awarded a five-year cooperative agreement to a coalition of technical resources including Development Alternatives, Inc., University of Minnesota, Tufts University, Training and Resources Group, and Ecology and Environment, Inc. to strengthen the human capacity of countries to identify and respond to outbreaks of newly emergent diseases in a timely and sustainable manner. This project will focus on the development of outbreak investigation and response training that merges animal and human health dynamics into a comprehensive capacity for disease detection and control. This agreement builds on over 30 years of USAID experience in building long-term capacities in health training through twinning U.S. and local academic institutions.

PREVENT: USAID has awarded a five-year cooperative agreement to The Academy for Educational Development and Global Viral Forecasting, Inc. to build an effective behavior change communication response to zoonotic diseases, support efforts to characterize "high-risk" practices that increase the potential for new disease threats from wildlife or wildlife products to spread and infect people, and formulate behavior change and/or communication strategies and interventions that meet the challenges posed by the emergence of a new infectious disease. This award builds on ongoing behavior change and communications efforts by USAID to prevent H5N1 transmission.

PREPARE: USAID has awarded a three-year cooperative agreement to International Medical Corps to provide technical support for simulations and field tests of national, regional, and local pandemic preparedness plans to ensure that countries have the capacity to implement response plans effectively during pandemic events.

IDENTIFY: USAID is working with the U.N. World Health Organization (WHO), U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) through existing grants to support the development of laboratory networks and strengthened diagnostic capacities in the "geographic hot spots" for new emergent diseases.
Within this framework, the OIE will assist selected veterinary laboratories inside and outside the central Africa region (the Congo river basin being one of the hot spots) in developing expertise and capacity in order to provide specialised (reference) diagnostic services to the national veterinary services and public health services in the countries covered by the project, i.e. Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. The programme will be coordinated by the OIE Scientific and Technical Department in Paris and the OIE Sub-Regional Representation for Southern Africa in Gaborone.

Other geographic hot spots are the Amazon river basin in South America, the Ganges plains in South Asia, and the Mekong river delta in South-East Asia Please contact Kate Glynn for further information and enquiries.