30 March 2006

Secretary-General Calls for Rapid Mobilization of Funds, Expertise For "Vast and Urgent" Needs of Poor Countries Fighting Avian Flu

NEW YORK, 29 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's statement on the urgent need of poor countries for funds and technical assistance to control avian influenza, in New York, 29 March:

I am deeply concerned about the rapid spread of avian influenza from Asia into Europe, the Middle East and Africa.  Both the disease, and the measures needed to control it, will increase the vulnerability of millions of smallholders and their families, most of them in poor countries.

We know that H5N1 avian influenza can be controlled if outbreaks are identified quickly, infected animals are culled, and movement and marketing of poultry are stopped in outbreak areas.  But such measures can succeed only if communities and animal health authorities work together, if we keep the public informed about risks and the means to reduce them, if we monitor progress carefully, and if we provide swift and adequate financial compensation for culled birds.

To do their part, and protect their people, some nations are absolutely dependent on outside assistance.  Nowhere is this more the case than in Africa, from where I have just returned.  As I learned at first hand, there is an immediate and desperate need for expertise, funds, transport and equipment.  With H5N1 cases now confirmed in four African countries, that need grows more pressing every day.

At the International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Influenza in Beijing in January, donors generously pledged grants and loans worth 1.9 billion dollars.  Vast and urgent needs have emerged since then, which makes it yet more imperative to convert the pledges into cash quickly.  Bearing in mind the growing challenges faced by poor countries in all regions, donors will have to be prepared to mobilize additional resources for urgent, as well as long-term needs.  And we must work together to create flexible mechanisms that bring funds and expertise more rapidly to where they are needed, particularly for culling and compensation.

Avian influenza threatens the entire world.  It knows no borders.  It is our collective responsibility to ensure that all countries -- rich and poor -- are protected and prepared.  The United Nations family will do all it can to help ensure that this happens.

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