Vol. 5 Num 772 Sat. July 29, 2006  
Front Page

Asia needs $500m more to fight bird flu: India

Asian countries need half a billion dollars more to combat a possible bird flu pandemic, India's health minister said yesterday, as health and agriculture experts from 11 Asian countries met in New Delhi.

They need about 882 million dollars to establish "reasonable levels of preparedness" for a human influenza pandemic, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss told the meeting.

"The current gap in mobilizing these resources is around 65 percent," said Ramadoss. The bird flu threat "is a stress test for the international community and let us spare no effort to nip this potential global disaster in the bud."

The minister's statement came after the regional head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned the gathering that the world was at a "critical juncture in the history of human infectious diseases."

"If an aviation influenza pandemic begins, there will be a window of only a few weeks to take action to contain it," Samlee Plianbangchango, director of WHO for Southeast Asia, said.

Ministers and officials from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Indonesia, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka and Thailand attended the conference to discuss how to tackle the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus.

Representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health were also present.

The spread of the virus appeared to be gaining momentum earlier this year with at least 18 new countries confirming cases of the H5N1 in wild birds or in domestic poultry in February alone, according to the WHO.