Cost of battling avian flu rising, World Bank says

Dec 4, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – The World Bank estimates it will cost between $1.2 and $1.5 billion to fight avian influenza over the next 2 to 3 years, a sizable increase since last January.

The institution announced the total in a Nov 30 report in advance of a donors' conference to be held in Bamako, Mali, Dec 6-8. The conference, a follow-up to one held in Beijing in January, is hosted by the government of Mali, the African Union, and the European Commission, with support from the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza.

Of nearly $1.9 billion pledged in Beijing, international donors have committed $1.4 billion, according to the report. It says that a substantial portion of the commitments ($242 million) consists of loans and credits, rather than grants, from multilateral development banks.

David Nabarro, the United Nations' senior coordinator for avian and pandemic flu, told journalists at a health reporters' conference in Cambridge, Mass., on Dec 1 that $800 million of the amount pledged at the Beijing meeting has been spent so far.

The new World Bank estimate of need is about 17% more than the needs presented at the Beijing conference and reflects avian flu developments of the past year, according to the report. It says the virus has spread to 39 more countries this year, the number of human deaths has risen steadily, and the fatality rate has increased from 53% to 60%.

"The largest increases in needs are in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and North Africa, which reflects both the spread of the disease to those regions and the relatively poor conditions of veterinary and public health services," the report states.

At the Beijing conference, only about $94 million (18%) in committed funds were earmarked for African or Middle Eastern countries; these countries were thought to be at low risk because they had not yet experienced any H5N1 outbreaks. The World Bank estimates Africa will need $466 million to finance its avian influenza activities. The goal for the Middle East and North Africa is $70 to $113 million.

Because African countries are economically weaker and less able to respond to avian flu threats, the World Bank is urging donor countries to focus on significant grant funding rather than loans for them.

The report says the needs of eastern and southern Asia will remain high, estimating the total at about $935 million. That includes at least $200 million for Indonesia, where 57 people have died of avian flu and the disease has affected 30 of 33 provinces. The World Bank says recent poultry outbreaks of H5N1 in India also contribute to the sustained funding needs for the region.

See also:

Nov 30 World Bank report on the worldwide cost of avian influenza prevention efforts

Jan 18 CIDRAP News article "$1.9 billion pledged for global avian flu battle"

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