The South Asia Regional One Health Symposium is being hosted by the Royal Government of Bhutan, as the concluding event of the Regional Training Program on Epidemiology and Biosecurity for South Asia, funded by the European Commission through the Avian and Human Influenza Trust Fund, administered by the World Bank. Massey University, New Zealand, is the implementing organisation.
The Symposium will be attended by 120–140 technical specialists, senior decision makers and policy directors involved in control and response to outbreaks of infectious diseases affecting both people and animals, from each of the seven participating countries. In addition, regional and international experts and representatives of the donor and key international agencies will be invited.
The first three days of the Symposium will focus on technical issues and will primarily involve the technical disease specialists. The senior decision makers, policy directors and representatives of international organisations and donor bodies will join the Symposium for the last two days, when the focus will be on whole-of-government and regional issues, including resolutions and future initiatives promoting a sustainable One Health agenda in South Asia.
The Symposium aims to provide a forum for cross-sectoral dialog and knowledge-sharing contributing to sustainability of the One Health Hubs established in each country and the regional South Asia One Health Network.
A key outcome sought from this week-long Symposium is commitment by the key government organisations from each of the countries to jointly maintain the One Health Hubs and collaborative activities in pursuit of a sustainable One Health agenda in the region.
The objectives of this 5-day Symposium are:
- To present and discuss the outcomes of collaborative investigation projects (CIPs) which have been completed across the Region on priority and re-emerging zoonotic diseases, and other One Health initiatives in each country, to the wider regional and international audience.
- To strengthen connections between the people directing epidemiological and biosecurity activities within the Region, and build global linkages.
- To strengthen capability for cross-sectoral and trans-boundary response to outbreaks of zoonotic disease at both the technical and policy levels by conducting a multi-country simulation exercise of an outbreak of a novel disease affecting both people and animals.
- To review achievements of the program, discuss opportunities for future initiatives building on outcomes to date, and plan future regional action to implement the One Health approach to infectious disease control in South Asia.
The simulation exercise which will be conducted at the Symposium will be the first of its kind for the South Asia region where issues at all levels from field investigation to media management and inter-country coordination will be handled in the same exercise. Observers from outside the Region will also be present, who will provide commentary and comparison with experience in other parts of the world.