Cambodia’s experience with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) since the disease was discovered on a farm outside Phnom Penh in January 2004 reveals important aspects of how a developing country with limited resources and capabilities has responded to a crisis that has global public health implications and, vice-versa, how this global response in turn affected Cambodia. Augmented by a survey sent to individuals deeply involved in HPAI work in Cambodia, this study uses a qualitative research methodology consisting of mostly one-on-one semi-structured interviews across government, the private sector, and the non-governmental sector. Measures have been taken to cope with AI such as public awareness campaign ‘Super Moan’ and Pandemic Preparedness, border control over the movement of poultry with neighbouring countries, Vietnam and Thailand, culling of poultry, and case-based secret compensation.
The study provides background to Cambodian political and modern history and sets the context of aid dependence and tourism, the livestock sector and poultry in particular. It then proceeds in three parts, from beginning, middle, to end on how HPAI evolved, providing a narrative timeline of the key policy moments/phases between the first outbreak and to date (December 2008). Three narratives are explored: (1) culling without compensation; (2) the shift to health; and (3) the role of poverty and livelihoods. The study then discusses three key themes that define the political economy of the policy process. These are: (a) Donors and NGOs; (b) Beyond Aid: Other Sources of Revenue and the Importance of Tourism; and (c) Media Spin. The overall analysis of the political economy of Avian Influenza in Cambodia reveals key challenges, obstacles and opportunities for responding to HPAI—and potentially other global epidemics.