Donors Pledge Nearly $500 Million to Avian Flu Fight

By Cheryl Pellerin
USINFO Staff Writer

Bamako, Mali – On the last day of an international avian influenza conference – the first such meeting to be held in Africa – donors from 10 countries, the European Commission-European Union, the World Bank and the African Development Bank pledged nearly $500 million in grants to fight avian influenza and prepare for a human pandemic, with a particular focus on Africa.

The U.S. government added $100 million in international assistance to an original pledge of $334 million made at a conference in Beijing in January. (See related article.)

Other major donors – according to figures provided by the World Bank – were Canada ($92.5 million), the European Commission ($88.2 million), Japan ($67 million) and others ($128.2), for total initial pledges of $475.9 million.

Ambassador John Lange, U.S. State Department special representative on avian and pandemic influenza, announced the U.S. contribution December 8 during the Fourth International Conference on Avian Influenza, co-sponsored by the government of the Republic of Mali, the European Commission and the African Union.

“Today,” Lange told the meeting, “the United States announces that our new pledge total for international assistance is $434 million, representing a $100 million increase since Beijing.” Additional funding for international assistance, he added, is requested in the fiscal year 2007 budget that is awaiting enactment by Congress.

Lange said a significant portion of the new funds will support efforts on the African continent.


The meeting was held in Bamako to highlight Africa’s plight in fighting avian influenza, which now has infected birds in eight countries there since the beginning of 2006.

Weak animal and human health infrastructures, poor disease surveillance, and populations beset with HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis make African nations particularly vulnerable to emerging diseases, including avian influenza.

“The possibility of a human pandemic hangs over us,” said Alexander Muller, assistant director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) during a December 7 speech. “Failure by any one country to contain the disease could lead to a rapid reinfection in many more countries. One weak link could lead to a domino effect, undoing all the good that we have achieved so far.”

During a press conference on the last day of the meeting, the U.N. system influenza coordinator, Dr. David Nabarro, said countries must establish three conditions for effective action against avian influenza:

• Political leadership and functioning alliances among government, the voluntary sector and the private sector, and working relationships among ministers of agriculture and animal and human health;

• The resources and capacity to respond rapidly to an outbreak when it occurs and to maintain the response with good communication; and

• Long-term mobilization of communities to make sure the risks associated with human and animal diseases are reduced.

The Bamako conference, he said, was a “powerful meeting” that brought national governments, international organizations and regional entities such as the African Union and the European Union together in an unprecedented show of global solidarity.


The United States has disbursed $324 million of its financial commitments to the global fight against the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus. This viral strain has appeared in more than 50 nations in animal populations. Ten nations have reported almost 260 human cases, resulting in 154 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

International health officials warn that the virus could develop the capability to pass easily from person to person, creating conditions for a human influenza pandemic.

The United States is working with partners around the world to strengthen preparedness and communication, increase surveillance and detection of the highly pathogenic virus, and enhance global capacity to contain and control the disease. The U.S. government is providing assistance to more than 79 countries, WHO, the FAO, the World Organisation for Animal Health and regional organizations to fight avian influenza and prepare for a possible pandemic.

“We will continue to work with you – bilaterally as well as multilaterally – to strengthen the three pillars of preparedness and communication, surveillance and detection, and response and containment,” Lange told his international counterparts, “and to ensure that avian and pandemic influenza remains a top priority on individual countries’ agendas.”

Efforts include deploying experts in human and animal health on emergency response teams; training veterinarians, health workers and laboratory diagnosticians; supporting research; and building surveillance networks and laboratory capacity.

U.S. funding also is helping provide personal protective equipment - such as suits, masks and gloves, and decontamination supplies - and other commodities, develop stockpiles of nonpharmaceutical and pharmaceutical items, provide technical and humanitarian assistance, and conduct communications campaigns and public outreach.

More information on U.S. and international efforts on avian influenza is available on a Web site of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A fact sheet on U.S. support to African efforts on bird flu and a fact sheet on U.S. international engagement on bird flu are available on the State Department Web site.

For ongoing coverage of the disease and efforts to combat it, see Bird Flu (Avian Influenza).