Donors pledge $475 million for global avian flu fight

Dec 8, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – International donors at a conference in Mali today pledged US $475 million to battle H5N1 avian influenza, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Dr. David Nabarro, the UN's avian and pandemic influenza coordinator, said he was pleased with the amount, even though has been saying that $500 million to $750 million per year will be needed for the next 2 to 3 years.

"I'm very pleased. This is a very good result," the Associated Press (AP) quoted Nabarro as saying.

The pledges came on the last day of a 3-day conference in Bamako, Mali. The pledged funds will add to about $600 million in loans and credit that is still in the pipeline from a January conference in Beijing, where donors pledged a total of $1.9 billion, the AP reported.

The United States contributed $100 million of the pledged total, while Canada added $92.5 million, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report today. The European Union promised $88.2 million and Japan pledged $67 million. Other donors promised a total of $128.2 million.

AFP reported there were indications that more contributions will be coming. John Underwood, an avian flu advisor with the World Bank, was quoted as saying, "What we heard from donors is that we have more money but we cannot announce it yet."

FAO Assistant Director-General Alexander Muller told conference attendees that avian flu remains "a potent threat around the world—both to animals and humans," according to today's FAO statement.

Muller urged donors to make Africa "a top priority for resources and technical assistance in the battle against avian influenza" and warned that "one weak link can lead to a domino effect, undoing all the good that we have achieved so far," the FAO said.

According to the AP report, donors said much of the money pledged would be earmarked for boosting veterinary, early warning, and reporting systems in Africa.

The FAO said it has received $66 million from donors and has agreements signed for another $25 million, with another $60 million in the pipeline. The agency also has spent $10 million of its own funds to help countries battle avian flu.

The AFP story said some experts have voiced concern about possible misuse of donor contributions, especially funds intended to compensate poultry breeders whose birds are culled to stop outbreaks.

"There is a risk of embezzlement," World Bank livestock specialist Francois Le Gall warned.

See also:

Dec 8 FAO news release
http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000461/index.html

Dec 4 CIDRAP News story "Cost of battling avian flu rising, World Bank says"

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