Bird Flu Alarm

2006-03-10-Africa must fight bird flu itself

Understanding Avian Influenza

2006-03-10-Africa must fight bird flu itself

African countries should not rely on rich nations to help tackle bird flu, warns the World Health Organization.

During a visit to Kenya, WHO Director General Dr Lee Jong-Wook said that efforts must be stepped up to prepare for possible outbreaks.

There have already been confirmed cases of the potentially-fatal H5N1 avian flu virus in Nigeria, Niger and Egypt.

Dr Lee urged ministers across Africa to set aside national revenues for an emergency fund.

He also warned that compensation was likely to be a big burden for African governments.

He said persuading small-scale African farmers to kill their flocks will not be easy.

"There are small backyard flocks of chicken - the dilemma is how can we convince the village people to get rid of apparently healthy chickens," he told reporters in Nairobi.

"I do not imagine the village people will cull, sacrifice their dozens of chicken on a promise that a certain day, they will be compensated."

Earlier this week, Nigeria's government started to pay compensation to farmers whose poultry have been killed because of bird flu - although criticism from farmers has been strong that payments are inadequate.

Nigeria was the first country to have confirmed cases of bird flu, and cases have spread across the country.

Preparedness

Dr Lee was speaking as the Kenyan health minister called for an extra three-quarters of a billion dollars in international help amid fears that avian flu could strike soon.

But he suggested African nations should not depend on the $1.9bn dollars already pledged.

"I know from experience that pledges are not payments... we are working on making the pledges real," he said.

"I just cannot imagine that rich countries or donor countries will come to compensate for chicken which will be sacrificed in the backyard of some villages in some place in Africa," he warned.

The BBC's Karen Allen in Nairobi says Dr Lee chose to come to Kenya because, he said, it is already shown a commitment for tackling bird flu by working closely with international agencies.


Even so, insiders within the country's veterinary services claim public education is poor and the country is ill-prepared for a potential epidemic, our reporter says.


Kenya and neighbouring Uganda and Tanzania are considered high risk because they are on a major route for migrating birds.

Although no cases have been confirmed here, recent scares have heightened awareness about the potential threat the avian flu virus poses.

No human cases of the H5N1 strain have yet been found in Africa but the United Nations has warned of a possible regional disaster if the disease continues to spread.

Understanding Avian Influenza