Africa now a frontline in war on bird flu: UN
By Chris Buckley
BEIJING (Reuters) - African countries must receive increased funds and support to combat bird flu as Asia braces itself for possible wider human outbreaks, the UN bird flu coordinator said on Tuesday.
David Nabarro, who steers UN efforts to contain the H5N1 bird flu virus and preparations to battle its possible spread through human-to-human infection, said $1.9 billion of grants and loans that countries pledged in Beijing in January has helped Asian nations bolster monitoring and prepare for outbreaks.
But he also said poor African countries would need more funds and advice to cope with the spreading H5N1 virus, which has traveled there from Asia via Europe and the Middle East.
"For certain countries, the resources available are very promising and have started to flow," he told Reuters, noting that much of the pledged money was directed at Asian countries.
"For certain other countries, particularly those that are newly affected by avian influenza, particularly countries in Africa, the resources have not yet started to move in the amount that we want," said Nabarro, who was in Beijing for meetings with officials to discuss Chinese measures to fight bird flu.
He is also due to visit Vietnam, Indonesia and Laos.
The H5N1 virus remains mainly a disease of poultry, but could spark a pandemic that could kills millions of people, according to the World Health Organization. It has already killed 107 people globally since 2003.
Nabarro said Africa's state of preparations was similar to where Asia was two years ago, but added he could not yet give a precise estimate of how much more money African countries needed to cope with bird flu.
Asian countries -- including China -- could share with Africa their valuable experience in inspecting wild and domestic birds, culling at-risk birds, and vaccinating flocks, he said.