Bird flu fight not equitable

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi, Dec 9 | Updated: Dec 10 2007, 06:32am hrs
Global efforts to combat the spread of the deadly Avian Flu virus has not been equitable and on the desired level of transparency. Apart from this, there is the problem of a sharp decline in pledge assistance and disbursements.

The Indonesian health minister, Siti Fadilah Supari, at the recent International Ministerial Conference on Avian and Pandemic Influenza, which concluded in Delhi on December 6, brought to the fore certain problems faced by developing countries in combating Avian Flu.

Suparis pronouncements are also relevant to India, which was twice a victim of the incidence of Avian Flu in poultry - in early 2006, in western parts of the country, and in July 2007 in Manipur, in the northeastern part. In 2006, the poultry industry suffered an estimated loss of Rs 30,000 million, while in 2007 it was Rs 6,700 million.

Supari raised the issue of transparency in the virus sharing issue. He alleged, The affected countries are asked to send H5N1 virus collected from avian flu victims to WHO-CCs. After the virus are sent, the originating countries do not have any right about the destiny of the shared virus. I do not really know whether they are used for researches and publications or they are shared with vaccine manufacturers for vaccine production or they are utilised for development of biological weapons.

He alleged a presumptive polarisation between developing and developed nations. Those who have the virus are developing countries, while those who benefit are developed countries, where vaccine manufacturers are located, he said.

The total pledge assistance by different countries has declined. In the Beijing ministerial in January 2006, $1.8 billion was pledged for the year 2005-07. In Bamako ministerial in December 2006, $474 was pledged the year 2006-08. In the Delhi ministerial $406.1 million was pledged. Out of the $2.3 billion pledged so far since November 2005 till the beginning of the Delhi ministerial, $1.7 billion has been committed, of which $1 billion had been disbursed.