Bird Flu Alarm

2006-01-19-Cash flows as experts warn of bird flu's cost

Understanding Avian Influenza

2006-01-19-Cash flows as experts warn of bird flu's cost

INTERNATIONAL donors have pledged $US1.9 billion ($2.5 billion) to support a global fund to combat bird flu, exceeding an initial target, the European Union Health Commissioner, Markos Kyprianou, said yesterday after a conference in Beijing.

The World Bank had hoped the donors' conference would raise at least $US1.2 billion. But experts warned that acting effectively could be harder than raising the money.

More than 500 delegates representing at least 90 countries and 22 agencies were in Beijing to co-ordinate resources and agree on a global response to the disease.

"It was difficult arriving at this stage, but it will be more difficult" for countries to fulfil their commitments, the director-general of the World Organisation for Animal Health, Bernard Vallat, said. "We need a lot of international and national support to ensure compliance."

The plea came as Turkey and Indonesia announced new cases of bird flu in children.

Other health officials stressed that any money spent on halting the spread of bird flu would be small compared with the human and economic toll of a pandemic.

The World Health Organisation's senior influenza co-ordinator, Margaret Chan, said it would be cheaper to pay now to prevent a pandemic than to suffer the costs later.

"My argument is, whatever resources you put in place, compared to the possible economic loss in the event of a pandemic, is peanuts," Dr Chan said.

The US responded with a pledge of about $US334 million, while the EU's total pledge is about $US250 million. China, co-host of the International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Influenza, yesterday pledged $US10 million and promised to provide more information on outbreaks.

Roche, maker of the front-line influenza drug Tamiflu, said it had donated another 2 million courses of the drug to the World Health Organisation, on top of the 3 million courses, or 30 million capsules, it donated last year.

Understanding Avian Influenza