Pledge assistance for combating Avian Flu declines

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi, December 6 | Updated: Dec 7 2007, 06:10am hrs
Ten countries including India have pledged a total assistance of $ 406.1 million to combat the spread of deadly Avian Flu across the world as the three-day International Ministerial Conference on Avian and Pandemic Influenza came to a close here on Thursday.

Among other countries which pledged their assistance to the programme are UK, Greece, Germany, France, Norway, Japan, US, European Commission.

Peter Harrold of the World Bank at a joint press conference, however, said. :"In the last ministerial conference at Bamako the pledge was higher at $ 475 million"

He also said that this was not a meeting for making pledges. It was a meeting for taking stock of the situation and acting as "one world, united against Avian and pandemic influenza", he said.

India had experienced the outbreak of Avian flu for the first time in poultry in early 2006 in the western part. This incidence caused an estimated loss of Rs 30,000 million to the industry. After being declared as free from Avian flu by the OIE in August 2006, the incidence of Avian flu occurred in July, 2007 in Manipur in the northeastern India. However, the incidence in Manipur remained confined to a solitary area and was successfully contained. The outbreak in Manipur caused a loss of Rs 6700 million to the industry.

The Indian health minister, Ambumani Ramadoss, in this context said that UN systems lauded the way India handled the situation. On being asked weather he can assure that there would be no further occurrences of Avian flu in the country, he said : "Much depends upon the situations in our neighbouring countries which had earlier become victims of Avian flu. The virus travel across borders."

The Indian health secretary, Naresh Dayal said : "The outbreak in western India and in northeastern India were not related as the strains detected were different."

The US special representative on avian and pandemic influenza, John E Lange said : "Today's pledge by US represents an increased contribution of $ 195 million. There is no presence of deadly Avian flu virus H5N1 in the western hemisphere. Earlier incidences were due to low pathogenic virus".

The conference adopted a road map prepared by India with an ambitious vision of measures and actions proposed till December 2008. This immediate short-term strategy is linked to long-term sustainable planning. The next ministerial meeting would be hosted by Egypt.

The New Delhi ministerial conference was attended by representatives from 111 countries and 29 international organizations and ministers from 40 countries. The conference was hosted in cooperation with US (IPAI chair), European Commission, WHO, FAO, OIE, World Bank, UNICEF and the UN System Influenza Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza.

The third global progress report of the UN System and the World Bank --- Response to Avian Influenza and State of Pandemic Readiness --- was presented in the conference.

The report confirmed considerable progress in country responses to highly pathogenic Avian Influenza. It also said that 95% of countries have developed pandemic preparedness plans but most of the plans were not sufficiently operational. Therefore, the report called for greater inter-country cooperation in capacity building for coping with a potential pandemic.

Delegates from several developing countries spoke of their successful containment of outbreaks of Avian Flu in the last two years, despite limitations of resources and capacities. They attributed their success to the cooperation of the local community, open communication between the public and government officials, well functioning surveillance systems, effective responses to outbreaks and prompt compensation to culled birds.

An update of the coordinated international financing programme shows that 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 $ one billion had been disbursed. The financing programme was launched in Geneva in November 2005 as a flexible framework to be monitored by the World Bank. In the Beijing ministerial in January 2006, $ 1.8 billion was pledged by different countries for the year 2005-07. In Bamako ministerial in December 2006, $ 474 was pledged by different countries for the year 2006-08.

Top 15 donors are World Bank, US, European Commission, Australia, Asian Development Bank, Germany, Netherlands, Japan, Finland, Russia, UK, African Development Bank, South Korea, China and France. The decline in pledges and low disbursement remain as a matter of concern.

Paul R Gully of WHO and Bernard Vallet of OIE were of the view that majority of risks of outbreak of Avian Flu were due to commercial movements and wild birds. Developing nations would face difficulties in avoiding contacts between domesticated and wild birds. J Domenech of FAO said that if the developing countries were lacking testing facilities they can use labs of developed nations and those of FAO and OIE.