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Extra Funding To Fight Bird Flu

The World Bank has prepared a report in which it says, a funding of over $US1.2 - $US1.5 billion ($A1.5 to $A1.9 billion) is required to fight bird flu in the next 2 to 3// years.

This report has been prepared for circulation at a conference to be held in the West African country of Mali, this week.

This report also advocates that poultry farmers caught in the front line should be effectively compensated.

The sums though they seem huge, were only a fraction of the potential damage around an estimated $US1.5 trillion - $US2 trillion ($A1.9 to $A2.5 trillion) that may occur as a result of a severe human influenza pandemic.

The conference is scheduled to be held in Mali's capital Bamako from December 6-8 and will review existing programs to control bird flu and also discuss means to be prepared to deal with any human pandemic. A one-day donor conference is also included to raise additional financing to fund them.

The report noted that the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu strain had killed 76 people already this year, almost equal to the death toll from the previous three years.

The disease had spread to 55 countries this year, compared with just 16 at the end of 2005.

"The largest increases in needs are in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and North Africa, which reflects both the spread of the disease to those regions and the relatively poor conditions of veterinary and public health services in most of the countries of those regions," it said.

Scientists fear that if the deadly virus mutates into a human virus that would spread easily, it could trigger a global pandemic killing millions of people.

Avian influenza has killed or forced the culling of around 250 million poultry birds since 2003. Asian nations are the worst hit.

Compensation structure seems to be a key item for discussion. "Payment of compensation to farmers whose animals are being c ulled enhances producer cooperation through better motivation to comply with the disease reporting and culling requirements of disease control packages," it said.

"Early identification of HPAI and the immediate culling of diseased or suspected animals are critical elements of reducing the risk of the disease spreading," said the report. The lead author is Christopher Delgado of the World Bank's Agriculture and Rural Development Department.

The joint report recommends the wealthier nations to be prepared to fund compensation to countries that were too poor to pay their own farmers, as it was clearly in the interests of their own livestock, to control the dreadful disease.

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