GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - In the medium term, ADB could commit at least $470 million to support Asia's responses and readiness to fight avian flu, ADB announced today.
"With avian flu continuing to spread, increasing the risk of a human pandemic that would be costly in terms of lives, health, and economies, boosting national and regional preparedness in Asia is a matter of urgency that ADB is ready to address," ADB Vice-President Geert van der Linden said.
He was speaking on the sidelines of a global partners meeting on avian flu and the risk of a human flu pandemic held at the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva.
The meeting, organized by WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and World Bank is identifying requirements and available resources to deal with the avian flu and a possible human influenza pandemic. The meeting is also discussing coordination mechanisms to ensure rapid mobilization and utilization of resources and identify key next steps.
According to recent research by ADB economists, an avian flu pandemic would costs the region millions of lives and tens of billions of dollars. It could halt Asia's growth rate to virtually zero, send developed countries and the global economy into recession, and reduce the global trade of goods and services by 14%, according to a report published last week, on the Potential Economic Impact of an Avian Flu Pandemic on Asia.
"One clear lesson from the SARS outbreak [in 2003] was the psychological impact on economic activity," the report says. Compared to the SARS outbreak however, "a flu pandemic could be substantially more damaging in both human and economic terms."
Recognizing the threat, ADB is ready to assist its member countries to fight avian flu and prepare for a human influenza pandemic, and will support WHO, FAO and OIE to lead a coordinated regional response on bird flu," Mr. van der Linden stressed.
Mr. van der Linden said ADB's assistance could include about $300 million for new projects in People's Republic of China, Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand, if the governments of those countries request such assistance.
ADB will also consult with governments in affected countries and countries at risk to identify possible savings and contingencies in ongoing and recently approved projects, which can be used to help finance rapidly their response to avian flu and shore up their defenses against a possible human pandemic. Some $75 million could be rapidly mobilized in loan savings from health and other projects in affected countries in the Mekong and Indonesia.
"In coordination with other partners, ADB will also see what new projects may be needed," Mr. van der Linden said.
"ADB has a strong track record of promoting regional cooperation, including for health related issues such as SARS and communicable disease control."
ADB has already mobilized resources for emergency support, and announced in October $58 million for two planned grant projects - a $28 million regional project addressing avian flu and $30 million for a communicable disease project in the Mekong. ADB plans to allocate rapidly an additional $600,000 to continue its support to the WHO regional offices in Manila and extend this to the WHO Delhi office covering Southeast Asia.