Global avian flu pledge money slow to arrive

Jun 5, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – Key global organizations that are fighting the battle against avian influenza may have to cut some programs, because only $286 million of the $1.9 billion pledged by 34 countries in January has been delivered, news services have reported.

Only Japan ($158 million), Switzerland ($4.7 million), Finland ($3.4 million), and the Czech Republic ($200,000) have contributed all the funds that they had pledged during a 2-day donor conference in Beijing in January, according to an Associated Press story yesterday. The United States has delivered on $71 million of its $334 million pledge, according to reports.

All the figures are from a World Bank donor survey and draft report that was written for the Influenza Partners' Senior Officials Meeting, to be held in Vienna Jun 6 and 7. The report was obtained by news services yesterday.

In the Beijing conference declaration in January (see link below), donor nations pledged: "We agree to take vigorous prevention, mitigation, emergency preparedness, and rapid response measures in the short term together with actions over the longer term to prevent and control the spread of HPAI [highly pathogenic avian influenza] in the poultry and related industries and prevent human exposure to the infected birds."

But their slow response in fulfilling pledges to fight avian flu may mean that key organizations receiving the funding—such as the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and the World Health Organization (WHO)—may need to cut back on their efforts, according to news services.

"The present shortage of funds means the global response is bound to be patchy," David Nabarro, UN senior coordinator for avian and pandemic influenza, said in a Bloomberg news report published today. "It means that national governments can't rely on getting help when they need it from a strong and well-prepared UN system.

"The WHO, and, to a lesser extent, the FAO, are so strapped for cash that it's going to be very difficult for them to maintain the current level of response to urgent calls for help from countries trying to control H5N1," Nabarro told Bloomberg.

The WHO has received about $20 million of $77 million pledged, according to Bloomberg. Speaking of the WHO's recent responses to human H5N1 outbreaks in Azerbaijan, Egypt, Iraq, Djibouti, and Indonesia, WHO senior adviser Paul Gully told Bloomberg, "The ability to maintain that level of response with that sophistication with that number of experts is going to be a challenge."

And without adequate funding, the Paris-based OIE will be forced to pare back its activities, such as training government officials, according to OIE Director-General Bernard Vallat, as reported in today's Bloomberg story.

"We'd reduce our ambitions," which may mean that the disease could become endemic in some countries, he told Bloomberg. This scenario, he said, would ultimately cost more money and require more veterinarians to address.

At the Vienna meeting, the OIE, FAO, and a group representing African governments will seek $500 million to raise the continent's veterinary and animal standards over the next 3 years, Vallat said in the Bloomberg report.

The nations due to receive the largest amounts of promised funds, according to a Jun 4 Reuters story that quotes the World Bank report, are Vietnam ($66 million), Indonesia ($55 million), Nigeria ($51 million), Turkey ($46 million), and Cambodia ($23 million).

This week's top reads