18 January 2006
U.S., Donor Nations Pledge Almost $2 Billion for Bird Flu
United States puts $334 million on the table at Beijing donor conference
The United States is putting $334 million into a global pool to help hard-hit nations cope with the most widespread outbreak of avian influenza ever known.
At the International Pledging Conference on Avian and Pandemic Influenza in Beijing January 17-18, donor nations pledged $1.9 billion dollars to target avian influenza and to avert a global influenza pandemic.
Experts fear that the strain of avian influenza that has caused the deaths of approximately 150 million birds will become contagious among humans, leading to a global pandemic that could cause millions of deaths.
An announcement from the U.S. State Department says Washington’s $334 million pledge will be distributed through grants and technical assistance to countries threatened by the virus. Assistance will be targeted toward development of national preparedness plans, improving surveillance and response systems, training medical personnel and supporting communications and public education programs.
The U.S. commitment to the international effort combines $54 million appropriated in 2005 with a $280 million contribution approved in late December 2005 in the U.S. budget for fiscal year 2006.
Also on January 18, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that Turkey now has 21 human cases of avian influenza, with four fatalities. All of these cases developed since December 2005, making the progression of human infection in Turkey faster than in any of the other five nations where people have become ill.
A WHO statement said additional human cases in Turkey are to be expected because of the broad appearance of the disease among birds. The international health agency also commended the Turkish government for its speed in launching a public health education campaign, resulting in a broad awareness of bird flu risks and precautions in the country.
The text of the U.S. State Department media note follows:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
January 18, 2006
U.S. Department of State
United States Pledges $334 Million to Global Fight Against Avian Influenza
Ambassador Nancy Powell, the State Department's Senior Coordinator for Avian Influenza and Infectious Diseases announced the United States' pledge of approximately $334 million to support the global campaign against avian influenza and a potential influenza pandemic. Ambassador Powell made the announcement at the International Pledging Conference on Avian and Pandemic Influenza in Beijing, China on January 17-18, 2006.
The U.S. funds will be largely in the form of grants and technical assistance to countries threatened by the virus. They will be used to assist those countries in a variety of ways, including to develop and exercise national preparedness plans, to improve surveillance and response systems, to monitor and evaluate the use and distribution of animal vaccine, to produce and test vaccines for humans, to train local rapid-response teams and medical personnel, and to support communications and public awareness campaigns to limit practices that contribute to the spread of the avian influenza virus. Portions of the pledged U.S. funds will also be used for international research activities and to support the influenza-related work of international technical agencies, private-sector partners, and non-governmental organizations.
In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly last September, President George W. Bush announced the formation of an "International Partnership" to combat avian influenza and to deal with the threat of a possible human pandemic. The President said the global community has "a moral duty to protect our citizens, and heal the sick, and comfort the afflicted".
According to conference officials, the combined total of pledges from all donor countries and organizations amounted to $1.9 billion. The United States' pledge represented the largest national contribution to the global campaign against the virus.
Conferees also discussed the importance of strong programs at the individual country level to combat the virus, the need for transparency in sharing information about outbreaks, and a "financing framework" proposed by the World Bank as a means of tracking coordinated donor contributions.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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