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Swiss call for joint efforts to fight bird flu

Chinese Prime Minister Wen (right) addressing the donor conference Keystone

International donors meeting in China have pledged $1.9 billion (SFr2.4 billion) to fight bird flu worldwide, exceeding an initial target.

This content was published on January 18, 2006 - 14:37

Switzerland called for coordinated efforts to tackle the disease at its roots and to prevent a possible human pandemic influenza.

The funds will be largely spent on health and veterinary services in a bid to prevent the virus mutating and spreading from human to human, according to United Nations officials.

The World Bank had hoped the conference in Beijing would raise $1.5 billion to combat the virus, saying that a pandemic lasting a year could cost the global economy $800 billion.

The largest donor is the United States with a pledge of $334 million, while the European Union promised a total of $250 million.

For its part, Switzerland committed a further SFr1.2 million ($940,000), topping up its financial contribution to SFr6 million.

In September it had pledged SFr4.8 million towards Food and Agriculture Organization projects to fight bird flu.

Coordinated approach

Thomas Jemmi, representative of the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office at the conference, said he was pleased with the outcome of the donor meeting.

"The money should be used in the fight against the disease at the source. It's important to get the disease in animals under control. It will help prevent a possible human pandemic influenza," he told swissinfo.

Jemmi said Switzerland stressed that strong leadership and a coordinated approach of the three main international organisations was necessary.

David Nabarro, the UN coordinator on avian and human influenza, described the $1.9-billion pledge as "brilliant".

"What we've seen today is that the world really does care and wants to respond effectively to the threat of avian influenza and a possible human pandemic," he said.

The two-day conference in Beijing received another boost with the decision by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche to produce enough of its antiviral drug Tamiflu for an additional two million people.

The meeting, co-sponsored by the World Bank, the EU and China, brought together 700 delegates from 100 countries.

The deadly H5N1 strain of avian influenza has killed at least 79 people, mainly in Asia, since 2003. Outbreaks of the flu have also been confirmed in Turkey.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Switzerland has earmarked a total of SFr6 million to help countries fight bird flu.
The authorities have extended an import ban on poultry products to six of Turkey's neighbours.
Checks on flights to Switzerland from Turkey are being strictly enforced.
The government is stockpiling enough Tamiflu to cover a quarter of the Swiss population.

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