World conference seeks funds to combat epidemic
By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-01-18 06:16
Beijing yesterday became the centre of international efforts to fund the
global fight against bird flu.
Participants at the International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human
Influenza are expected to promise donations today; and endorse a Beijing
declaration which reflects the political will of the world to combat the
Deputy Director-General of China's Ministry of
Foreign Affairs Wang Xiaolong sits with other officials at the opening
ceremony of the "International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human
Pandemic Influenza" in a hotel in Beijing January 17, 2006.
The two-day meeting, sponsored by China, the European Commission and the
World Bank, comes at a time when the bird flu contagion is becoming more
aggressive and its control hamstrung by funding shortages.
"There is a significant shortfall of funds in many affected countries and
relevant international agencies, which will seriously hamper their prevention
and control efforts," Vice-Foreign Minister Qiao Zonghuai said in a speech to
launch the conference yesterday.
Therefore, the gathering assumes great significance in mobilizing necessary
resources and technical assistance and enhancing international co-operation,
Qiao told nearly 700 representatives from more than 100 countries and a score of
The World Bank estimates the total financing gap that needs to be filled to
prepare for, and respond to, avian and human influenza at roughly US$1.2
"It will be possible to meet this gap only if all sources of external donor
funds are combined and development finance partners work together," the World
The priority for disbursing grants will go to affected or high-risk
countries, notably Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Mongolia and Viet Nam, the
organization said in a statement released at the conference yesterday.
Since the first reports of H5N1 outbreaks in Asia in late 2003, bird flu has
killed or prompted culling of nearly 140 million domestic poultry, and has now
reached the gates of Europe. The fatal strain of the virus has been contracted
by nearly 150 people in six countries, and killed more than half of the victims.
International decision makers, experts and organizations gathered yesterday
to summarize the outcome of a major world meeting at Geneva in early November
that addressed the H5N1 threat, and discuss a financing framework that
identifies a range of mechanisms and arrangements to support an integrated and
Most of yesterday's sessions were closed to the press.
Vice-Minister Qiao said he expected the meeting to strengthen partnership
"The international community should give priority to increasing support to
affected countries and help them build capacities for prevention, control and
emergency response," he said.
A long-term strategic partnership should be established
among them, enabling them to share bird flu information in an open, timely and
transparent manner; and increase transparency in research and development of
effective vaccines and antiviral drugs, he said.