China Hosts Bird Flu Conference

A two-day international donors' meeting opened here on Tuesday, January 17, with the aim of raising $1.5 billion to help fight bird flu amid warnings of a "great risk" of a global pandemic.

China Hosts Bird Flu Conference

"We live on the same planet and our destinies are interconnected," China's Vice Foreign Minister Qiao Zonghuai told the opening session of the International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Influenza, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"In the fight against avian influenza, no country can stay safe by looking the other way."

Officials from almost half the world's nations and 25 organizations gathered to come up with the money needed to finance a three-year action plan that was laid out at the first donors' conference in Geneva in November.

The conference, co-sponsored by China, the European Commission and the World Bank, is aiming to assess the financing needs at country, regional and global levels.

It will invite the international community to pledge financial support and discuss how to set up mechanisms to coordinate the fight against bird flu.

Global Risk

Margaret Chan, the World Health Organization's special representative on pandemic influenza, gave a stark picture of the uncertainty facing the world over the H5N1 strain of the virus.

"The risk of a pandemic is great. The timing is unpredictable and the severity is uncertain," Chan told the conference.

Bird flu, which has killed nearly 80 people mostly in East Asia since 2003, has spread to the Middle East and Europe over the past year.

Turkey confirmed on Monday, January 16, its fourth human fatality. Three children have earlier died from avian flu in Turkey, the first human victims reported outside east Asia since H5N1 reemerged in 2003.

A man from Al-Quds (occupied east Jerusalem) was undergoing urgent tests on Monday for possible bird flu after a number of chickens he was keeping died.

The highly pathogenic strain of bird flu is endemic in poultry in parts of Asia, and has affected birds in two-thirds of the provinces in Muslim Indonesia, an archipelago of about 17,000 islands and 220 million people.

Since reappearing in Southeast Asia in 2003, the H5N1 strain of bird flu has infected about 150 people, killing about 80, in six countries, according to the WHO's toll.

The deadly virus is not known to pass easily between humans at the moment, but experts fear it could develop that ability and set off a global pandemic that might kill millions of people.

Funds

"The EU, we're dedicating a pledge of 100 million euros, which is roughly 120 million dollars," Kyprianou told AFP. (Reuters).

Qiao lamented a "significant shortfall of funds" in many affected countries and international agencies, which would "seriously hamper" their prevention and control efforts.

"Convened at this crucial moment, the pledging conference, therefore, is of great significance to mobilizing necessary resources and technical assistance and enhancing international cooperation."

The EU will increase its financial pledge to fight bird flu to $120 million (100 million euros), a senior official said.

"The European Union, we're dedicating a pledge of 100 million euros, which is roughly 120 million dollars," Markos Kyprianou, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, told AFP.

The offer is $20 million more than the initial pledge the EU said last week it would make at the conference.

Kyprianou said the EU pledge will be on a par with the pledge from the US.

The sum will include 35 million euros earmarked for Asian countries, said another senior EU official last week.

Funds raised will be given to needy countries in the form of grants and low-interest loans to help them strengthen surveillance.

This will include the training of agriculture and health workers and strategies to better detect outbreaks and cases, and how to respond to them.

Money will also be used to expand the global stockpile of anti-viral drugs and to prepare a currently non-existent human vaccine.

Drugs Donations

The global effort to stockpile drugs received a timely boost at the conference with the WHO announcing that Swiss drugs maker Roche had agreed to donate a second batch of Tamiflu, the frontline medicine against H5N1.

"They were very generous. They have agreed to donate another two million courses, that is 20 million doses for use by affected countries," Chan said.

The donation is in addition to a pledge Roche made last year to provide 30 million Tamiflu doses to the WHO.

Experts told the conference that for the global plan to work and the funding to be used effectively, it was crucial the global community showed strong political commitment, was transparent and coordinated with each other.

"Unless we are working as one, we don't get a good result," said David Nabarro, senior UN system coordinator for avian and human influenza.

Scientists fear that the more the virus spreads, the greater the chance H5N1 will mutate into a form that is easily transmissible between humans. This could spark a global pandemic that could claim millions of lives.

"This is not just a meeting to raise money. What's also an important outcome is acknowledgement by the international community that this is a global threat," Kyprianou said.

"We're not to help certain countries or regions out of charity. It's because it's a global threat and we need a global defense."

Source: Islamonline.net

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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