TASW Newsletter Editorial - January 2014

Dear Colleagues,

Members of the Towards A Safer World (TASW) network are committed to improving their expertise and increasing their effectiveness.  They do this by exchanging, testing, refining and promoting their approaches, drawing on lessons of experience, and building a compendium of best practice.  They offer examples to each other, they identify techniques they have found to be useful, and they ensure that all have a chance to see research outputs, project reports and case studies that might be useful.   They do this through exchanging information  either face to face or via the TASW network newsletter.  This is the fifth issue of the newsletter.  Each issue isavailable on TASW website at http://www.towardsasaferworld.org . Feedback from network members suggests that they are appreciated by members of the network and by wide range of other stakeholders.

In this fifth [January 2014] issue of the TASW newsletter we offer updates on the status of several active viruses that have pandemic potential. Updates cover (a) human cases of infection with avian influenza A(H5N1) [the latest  case reported by Canada and the overall public health risk assessment for H5N1]; (b) the situation of A(H7N9) infection in China [including a summary of human cases to date and a description of the joint work by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) joined forces to support surveillance, preparedness and response capacities in countries that requested help -  mainly in Asia.  There are also links to current technical information from WHO and FAO for in-depth reading. With regard to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome- Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), you will read in this issue a summary of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) new guidance to countries for detecting and responding to this risk.   The summary points out to the recommendation of the WHO Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations (IHR) that - based on available information and risk-assessment approach – MERS-CoV does not yet meet the conditions for a public health emergency of international concern.

Members of the TASW network helped develop and often use the One Health approach in order to ensure effective preparedness and response to hazards that emerge at the animal, human, ecosystem interface. This issue of the TASW newsletter summarizes the outcomes of the 2nd One Health Summit organized by the Global Risk Forum (GRF), together with the World Organization for Animal health (OIE) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) from 17th 20th November 2013 in Davos, Switzerland.  The Summit concluded that the world faces several major risks as a result of diseases at the interface of animals and humans, within different ecosystems.  It identified four areas to receive focused attention.  These are (a) increased investment in milti-sectoral research to define risks and means to mitigate them; (b) education and training for all working to reduce health risks at the interface; (c) incorporating the findings of research into policy and practice, and (d) mobilizing finance for one health work.  Education and training about the One Health approach is becoming more widely available in universities and higher education institutes around the world.

Members of the TASW network have identified that reinforcing the resilience of systems and communities so that they can better handle a range of threats is the foundation for efforts to prepare for, and mitigate, emerging global risks. Noel L.J. Miranda writes about how theOne Health approach contributes to the resilience of societies in the face of disasters.  He focuses on an innovative higher education programme “One Health-Disaster Resilience” in the Republic of the Philippines.   In his article, Michael Mosselmans focuses on how Christian Aid is committed to helping communities develop and maintain thriving resilient livelihoods.   Frederick Spielberg, from the Office of Emergency Programmes, UNICEF, Geneva, describes how staff within the UN system maintains resilience of country offices in the face of threats with his description of 9 years of UNICEF experience with scaling up preparedness at country level through the use of office-based emergency simulations. 

We encourage all members of the network to share their experiences through the newsletter – particularly with descriptions of activities they have initiated and changes to which they have contributed.  Do give us your ideas. We are delighted to receive and circulate  them so that they can be taken on and used by others throughout the network, and beyond.  We would like to thank colleagues who contribute their materials and thoughts to the newsletter.   As always, we welcome contributions (400-1,000 words) and comments.  We plan to issue the next newsletter in April 2013.

Chadia Wannous (TASW Project Manager)

David Nabarro (Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General)