MANILA, PHILIPPINES - ADB is today hosting a meeting of major partners to discuss regional coordination to meet the threat posed by avian influenza in Asia and the Pacific.
The event is a follow up to an informal meeting where regional donors shared information on their bird flu projects and activities in the region, on the sidelines of the high-level conference on bird flu in Beijing in January. At the Beijing conference, the international community pledged $1.9 billion for the fight against avian flu, of which ADB can meet up to $470 million.
"As it was clear that our projects were complementary, we decided that we should continue sharing information, to avoid duplication and ensure our activities achieve synergy in supporting the region and the Governments of Asia and the Pacific in the fight against bird flu," says ADB Principal Health Specialist Jacques Jeugmans.
"The meeting will both share information on donor agencies' avian flu and pandemic plans and activities in the region and discuss coordination of activities."
Among those participating in today's meeting are representatives of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), AusAID and the Australian Government, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the European Commission, UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Japan Bank for International Cooperation, World Bank, USAID, World Health Organization, and World Organization for Animal Health.
They will discuss animal health issues related to avian flu including surveillance and response, emergency preparedness, and veterinary services; and human health issues such as epidemiology, diagnosis, education, and medical care; as well as next steps in each of these areas.
Last month, ADB and its development partners unveiled in Bangkok a $38 million grant project designed to counter the immediate threat to the Asia and Pacific region posed by bird flu.
Designed as a flexible response in close coordination with ASEAN, FAO, WHO, and others, the project aims to prevent or rapidly control infection at source among birds, strengthening early detection, reporting and controlling bird flu outbreaks, and rapidly managing cases of human influenza caused by the H5N1 virus.
The project will also help prepare the region for a possible pandemic by supporting regional interagency collaboration, regional cooperation in sharing information, and strengthening regional networks.
Besides underwriting the cost of experts, equipment, supplies, drugs and services, the project includes a $14.5 million avian influenza response facility to provide emergency financing to contain outbreaks and meet countries' most urgent needs.
The highly pathogenic H5N1 virus has infected poultry in many Asian countries and has now been detected in Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. Human cases have been identified in Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey, Iraq, and Viet Nam. Experts believe that the virus could mutate into a new strain that could be easily transmissible among humans.
The potential impact of a flu pandemic would be substantial and could cripple economic growth and poverty reduction across the world. Based on WHO best-case estimates that up to 7 million people could die worldwide, a pandemic would cost Asia $297 billion in one year and throw the world into recession, according to a recent ADB study.