US embassy cable - 05KINSHASA1952

Congo/Brazzaville: Avian and Pandemic Influenza Preparedness

Identifier: 05KINSHASA1952
Wikileaks: View 05KINSHASA1952 at
Origin: Embassy Kinshasa
Created: 2005-11-28 09:44:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

DEPT for AF/C Madeeha Ashraf; AF/EX/PMO Lloyd Champ 
E.O.12958: N/A 
SUBJECT:  Congo/Brazzaville:  Avian and Pandemic 
          Influenza Preparedness 
REFS: (A) STATE 209622; (B) STATE 206992 
1. SUMMARY. In response to reftel A, post made inquiries to 
various host government officials and representatives from 
international organizations to assess the current posture 
and readiness of the Government of the Republic of Congo 
(ROC) to respond effectively to an outbreak of avian 
influenza.  Based on these conversations, it appears that 
the ROC is ill-equipped to respond to an outbreak and 
probably lacks the resources and public commitment to better 
prepare without considerable international guidance and 
support.  That said, the ROC has been relatively effective, 
though highly dependent upon the assistance of the 
international community, with containing the roughly annual 
outbreaks of Ebola in the north of the country.  END 
Q and A: Preparedness/Communications 
2.  Preparedness - Besides the recent banning of the import 
of poultry, the government has no coordinated plan or 
strategy for preventing avian flu from becoming a pandemic 
should it come to the ROC.  Some small efforts are underway 
to inform and improve the capacity of the government to 
respond should a crisis appear.  The Ministry of Scientific 
Research and Technical Innovations, in coordination with the 
Ministries of Commerce and of Agriculture, Farming and 
Fisheries, hopes to organize a workshop on avian influenza 
by the end of November.  Mr. Okombo Ngassaki, the 
Agriculture General Director at the Ministry of Agriculture, 
recently attended a workshop in Rwanda that sought to define 
a common African strategy for combating avian flu and hopes 
to bring insight from that experience to the workshop in 
3. Communications - In post's view, the government is likely 
to be frank about any outbreak that might occur for the 
pragmatic reason that if they were not, ROC would not 
receive the assistance they would need from the 
international community.  The point of contact in the 
government is the Minister of Agriculture, Farming and 
Fisheries, Ms. Jeanne Dambenzet. 
4. Priorities - While the government is taking some initial, 
small steps towards better preparedness, avian influenza 
does not appear to rank very high as a concern.  The reason 
for this is probably a combination of the fact that the 
problem is not yet knocking at the country's doors as well 
as the recognition that the ROC lacks the resources (both 
financial and technical) to be effective on its own to fight 
any potential outbreak. 
5. Legal Frameworks - Besides the ban on poultry imports, 
post knows of no effort to review national laws for 
consistency with international health regulations. 
6. Partnerships - The government has not actively engaged 
with the international organziations or other countries on 
the avian influenza issues.  The government has, however, 
worked effectively with international organizations and 
other countries to combat other health crises, for example 
the recent outbreak of Ebola (March/April 2005).  The 
government is likely to be very receptive to assistance from 
international organizations or the USG, should such 
assistance be offered. 
7. The country does not currently administer annual flu 
shots, nor does it have the resources to do so.  There are 
no known doses of the annual trivalent flu vaccine in 
country, let alone any infrastructure for developing or 
producing the same. 
8. Except for what they hear on the TV or radio news, the 
population is not well informed about the avian flu threat 
Arguably, there are mixed reactions among the people.  Some 
are frightened, while others believe that it is only a 
problem in Asia.  Still others believe that it is the same 
illness routinely seen among their poultry flocks and 
believe it poses no threat to humans.  On the other hand, 
the people appear receptive to sensitization campaigns 
(e.g., Ebola) by the government and international 
Q and A: Surveillance/Detection 
9. The ROC lacks the basic equipment, specialized 
laboratories, and specialists themselves to conduct research 
related to avian flu or to report properly on the scope of 
any outbreaks.  Normally, the government relies on 
international organizations such as the WHO and UNDP for 
assistance in bringing in equipment or specialists or for 
getting samples to laboratories abroad for diagnosis. 
Q and A: Response/Containment 
10. As mentioned above (see paragraph 7), the ROC does not 
have stockpiles of medication nor is there any indication 
that the country plans to order any.  The same would hold 
true for protective gear. 
11. There are not yet plans for culling or vaccinating birds 
should an outbreak occur.  The only proactive step the 
government has taken thus far is the ban on imported 
12. In the past, the government has been effective with 
small-scale quarantines and social distancing measures.  In 
the event of serious need, the military could be called upon 
to assist. 
13. Please be advised that the Embassy Brazzaville TDY 
Office currently has no access to IVG, OpenNet or GAL e- 
mail.  Embassy staff may be contacted via the following 
personal e-mail accounts or cell phone numbers: 
CDA Mark Biedlingmaier, 
 celtel: (242) 526-3562 
ECON/CONS Chelsea Bakken, 
 celtel: (242) 528-7963 
TDY MGT Susan Selbin, 
 celtel: (242) 525-7387 
14. Brazzaville Embassy Office - Biedlingmaier. 

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