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Muslim Nations Urged To Address Health Needs

Member nations of the Organization of the Islamic conference (OIC) who met at Kuala Lumpur were addressed on the state of their health affairs .

Calling the public health services of most of the 56 member nations deplorable, Malaysias Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said seven of the 10 nations with the highest rate of infant mortality in the world, were Muslim states.

While speaking at an inaugural meeting of various OIC health ministers, Badawi was quoted: "The state of public health in Muslim countries is already a tragedy. "It is a tragedy because there is so much we can do to prevent needless death and suffering." Badawi added that millions of infants and children in Muslim nations were vulnerable to diseases such as polio and malaria.

The two-day meeting is set to map out a common plan to face a possible influenza pandemic, fight polio and malaria and for the joint production of vaccines.

Three leading OIC states (Indonesia, Egypt and Turkey) have been badly affected by bird flu. World health Organization data shows that there have been 190 deaths globally from the H5N1 bird flu virus since late 2003. Indonesia has recorded 79 human deaths from bird flu, the world's highest, Egypt 15 and Turkey four. The OIC nations, which range from the wealthy oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to Somalia and Afghanistan, have 1.3 billion people.

Abdullah, who has chaired the OIC since 2003, said although diseases such as polio had long been wiped out in Western countries, they continued to threaten Muslim nations. He said the problem was caused by lack of funding, lack of vaccine production among OIC member states and concerns over the acceptability and quality of vaccines. "We have much to do as many of the world's Muslims live in conditions that expose them to the most virulent, yet most preventable, infections."

OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told the meeting that richer memb
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