Scientists are taking samples to test for avian influenza in The Gambia.
© GIZ/Lisa von Stebut


Gambia: Well prepared for bird flu

The West African country has put emergency measures in place to deal with the outbreak of avian influenza, or bird flu. An international team of experts provided support, including preventive action.

Birds fly over the sea

When a number of dead birds were found in a Gambian nature reserve in early March 2023, the local authorities soon had a suspicion about the cause. They tested the animals for bird flu – and their suspicion was confirmed. Gambia is on an important bird migration route between Europe and Africa. Migrating birds can transmit the highly contagious bird flu to local wild birds and domestic poultry. Rapid action was needed to stop the outbreak from escalating.

The animal welfare officer in Gambia was therefore quick to contact the German Epidemic Preparedness Team (SEEG). SEEG works on behalf of the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Ministry of Health (BMG) and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) to identify and contain infectious diseases at an early stage. And this support was required in the case of the bird flu virus. The adaptability of the virus makes it dangerous, with more and more bird and mammal species affected worldwide. Infections in humans can be very serious and sometimes even fatal.

Viewing climate change, biodiversity and health together

In The Gambia, SEEG used the proven One Health approach, which views human and animal health together through a single lens. SEEG’s assessment incorporated experience from human and animal health and also environmental aspects. They provided diagnostic training to scientists and further training to park rangers in The Gambia. Jan Matern from SEEG summarised the assignment: ‘Thanks to our dedicated Gambian colleagues, we have established a solid basis for cross-sectoral cooperation that will help The Gambia fight any future bird flu outbreaks.’ 

The core SEEG team the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is incorporated into the Global Programme for Pandemic Prevention and Response. SEEG has already completed assignments in five countries in West Africa and Latin America. Experts from the cooperation partners Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Robert Koch Institute and Wadden Sea Secretariat were also involved in the work in The Gambia.

Additional information