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04. März 2015

STATEMENT BY SOUTH AFRICA’S PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE H.E. AMBASSADOR TEBOGO SEOKOLO FOR THE MARCH 2015 BOARD OF GOVERNORS.

Agenda Item 5: Strengthening of the Agency’s Technical Cooperation Activities

a) Strengthening Africa’s Regional Capacity for the Diagnosis of Emerging or re-emerging Zoonotic Diseases, including Ebola Virus Disease, and establishing early warning systems

Chairperson,

1. My delegation associates itself with the statement made by the Representative of the G77 and China and thanks DDG Aning for his opening remarks under this Agenda Item.

2. My delegation thanks the Secretariat for preparing the Proposed Technical Cooperation Project on ‘Strengthening Africa’s Regional Capacity for the Diagnosis of Emerging or Re-emerging Zoonotic Diseases, including Ebola Virus Disease, and Establishing Early Warning Systems’ as contained in document GOV/2015/11.

Madam Chairperson,

3. The life-saving services the Agency provides through its Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP), in particular through this project, which addresses the animal/human interface of diseases so as to reduce the possibility of the introduction of animal diseases to humans, is proof, once again, of the essential contribution made by the Agency and its TC Programme to the attainment of global health and prosperity.

4. Again we are reminded that the Technical Cooperation Programme must have sufficient financial and human resources to respond to the ever-evolving realities in Member States. Whilst we explore ways in which to ensure more resources for the Technical Cooperation Fund (TCF),   we must acknowledge that payment, in full and on time of TCF contributions, is  a key element to making the TCF sufficient assured and predictable.   South Africa calls on Member States to honour their commitments to the TCF, to ensure that the benefits of nuclear technology remain available to all Member States.

5. The renovation of the Nuclear Applications Laboratories at Seibersdorf is essential to the work of the Agency.  The technology developed by the IAEA/FAO Joint Division  at the Animal Health and Production Laboratory at Seibersdorf brought about a dramatic improvement in the early diagnosis of infectious diseases.  This technology makes it possible for the Agency to contribute to the fight against Ebola and to support Member States in limiting the emergence and spread of animal and zoonotic diseases in their countries.

6.  My delegation welcomes the continued collaboration between the IAEA and the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety in the AGES newly established high level biosafety laboratory.  We also welcome the Austrian Government’s support, as announced earlier this morning,  for the expansion of this laboratory through an independent extension and for the generous package of facilities and services that could be made available for the use of the  IAEA in Modling.  This support by the Austrian Government constitutes a solid foundation for the establishment of the Agency’s own BSL3 capability on which we can expand.

Chairperson,

7. The VETLAB project to strengthen veterinary diagnostic laboratories in Africa has provided the platform for the Agency’s proposed project to address the emergence and r-emergence of zoonotic diseases such as Ebola.  This VETLAB project is funded through the South African “African Renaissance and International Co-Operation Fund” (ARF) and the IAEA’s Peaceful Uses Initiative (PUI) and is now in its 3rd year of implementation. The VETLAB is a network of veterinary laboratories, currently comprising 32 participating African countries with 4 regional reference laboratories in Ethiopia, Botswana, Cameroon and the Cote D’Ivoire, providing first line and confirmatory diagnostic support to other neighbours in the region. The VETLAB project is widely recognised for establishing capacity for early and rapid diagnosis of transboundary animal and zoonotic diseases in Africa.

7. My delegation acknowledges that the IAEA’s support to international efforts to control the current outbreak of Ebola in humans, in collaboration with the WHO, makes a difference on the ground and has resulted in requests for similar assistance by other countries in the region.  South Africa supports the proposed project as contained in document GOV/2015/11, which will enable the Agency to respond to these requests and further strengthening the region’s capacity to prevent such outbreaks in future.   My delegation calls on all Member States to support the full implementation of the project and expresses it appreciation for the contributions made by the United States of America and Japanto this project.

Chairperson,

8. South Africa continues to make significant contributions to the fight against Ebola.  South Africa’s involvement, which began last year, has been extensive and has included mobilising both a domestic response to prevent the entry of Ebola into South Africa, as well as an external health and humanitarian assistance programme to support affected countries.

9. The South African Department of Health mobilised cash and in-kind contributions amounting to almost R60 million. This has included setting up a National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) mobile diagnostic laboratory, which has tested more than 6,000 specimens of those suspected of Ebola infection. The laboratory teams rotate every five weeks and are also training local personnel. This intervention serves as inspiration for, and will be replicated in part through the Agency’s project to strengthen regional capacity for the diagnosis of zoonotic diseases, currently under discussion in the Board. My delegation notes that the Agency, through the Joint FAO-IAEA Division and Technical Cooperation Department, is actively supporting these efforts on the ground through equipment support, technical advice and guidance.

10. South Africa has also provided 16,000 protection suits and has sent ambulances, scooters, drugs, generators, autoclaves for sterilisation and food.   Earlier this month the SA Military Health Services (SAMHS) School for Military Health Training in Thaba Tshwane hosted an intensive two-day train the trainers workshop for the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Medical health professionals such as doctors, nurses and lab technicians, as well as uniform members from regional defence forces and civilian personnel were among the participants from the region.  Aimed at defence forces who are, in many instances called on as the first line of service when disasters strike, the aim of the training was to rapidly interrupt transmission of the Ebola virus in West Africa. 

11. South Africa in February deployed 23 local health workers, 20 nurses and three paramedics, to Sierra Leona as part of the African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA) initiative.   The deployment is the second for South Africa following an independent deployment on January 23. The first group is stationed at the Goderich Emergency Ebola Treatment Centre on the outskirts of Freetown. Since their arrival, the South Africans have seen six discharges and lost two patients. The healthcare professionals stay in country for six months of service in AU supported treatment sites and when they return to South Africa they will undergo three weeks of observation before resuming normal duties. This South African efforts in this regard is implemented by Right to Care and supported by South African business and the African Union. 

Chairperson,

12. South Africa greatly values and will continue to support the work of the Agency in delivering much needed technology that supports peace, health and development in our region and throughout the world.

Thank you

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