18 January 2006

Massive Coordinated Global Response Needed against Threat from Avian Flu, Says Secretary-General, in Message to Beijing Conference

NEW YORK, 17 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's video message to the International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Influenza, to be aired in Beijing on 18 January:

Dear friends,

This conference comes at a crucial time in our response to avian flu. Let me thank the Government of the People's Republic of China, the European Commission and the World Bank for co-hosting it.

Recent deaths among human beings, including children, have reminded us, tragically, of the gravity of this threat.

The loss of more than 140 million chickens has caused massive hardship to farmers, and brought fear to their communities.

The resilience of populations who were already struggling has been tested.

In many communities, animal and human health services are being taxed to the limit.

At the same time, the virus could ignite the next human flu pandemic. I do not need to tell you of the terrible consequences that could bring to all nations and peoples.

Two months ago, I said we needed to prepare a coordinated international response, reflecting the needs of all nations.

Since then, Governments and international organizations have agreed on priorities. Countries and communities have started to organize themselves.

But we are not yet there.

To be truly prepared, we will need to mount a massive effort -- from upgrading veterinary systems and launching vaccination drives, to encouraging change in the ways people coexist with animals.

Our effort requires resources. Your conference will be given estimates of how much. Please bear in mind that the amount asked for is small compared to the cost -- human and economic -- of a pandemic we are not ready for.

Our effort also requires us to share information, biological material and scientific expertise.

It requires us to agree on ways of providing essential medicines to those who need them.

It requires us to work together and resist fragmentation, with a minimum of red tape and quibbling. 

The entire United Nations family is behind this effort -- including the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization. To pursue the global strategies that have been agreed, we are working with key partners -- such as the World Organization for Animal Health, the Red Cross movement, the private sector, and civil society.

I have asked all parts of the United Nations system to have contingency plans in place, so that we can sustain vital support, if and when a human pandemic does erupt.

I encourage all Governments to do the same.

My friends, the decisions you make today will shape the ways we work together. There is no time to waste. Let's ensure that we are ready.

Thank you very much.

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