KYRGYZSTAN: World Bank helps to prevent bird flu

ANKARA, 16 Jan 2006 (IRIN)
The World Bank is to provide US $5 million assistance to Kyrgyzstan for the prevention of bird flu outbreaks in the country.676024_1.jpg

«We plan to use these funds in all areas, including, first of all, laboratory facilities, monitoring and training, public information and awareness raising,» Liudmila Shteinke, Kyrgyzstan’s chief sanitary inspector, said in a phone interview from the capital, Bishkek, on Monday.

The assistance would also be used for a compensation fund if a massive domestic poultry cull proved necessary, the official said, adding: «These resources will be used by all the government bodies, including the medics, veterinary and the forestry, involved.»

Her comments came four days after the World Bank’s Board of Directors endorsed a new framework for a global funding programme of up to $500 million to help countries combat bird flu.

«The Kyrgyz Republic is expected to be the first country to obtain financing under the new programme. Bank officials have been working on a project for the Kyrgyz Republic worth about $5 million,» the world development body said in a statement on Friday, adding that negotiations were still under way.

Avian influenza, or ‘bird flu’, is a contagious disease of animals caused by viruses that normally infect birds and less commonly, pigs, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Avian influenza viruses are highly species specific, but in some cases infect humans.

According to media reports, the H5N1 killer strain of the virus has claimed the lives at least three in Turkey over the past two weeks, while killing more than 70 people in Asia since 2003.

The new World Bank programme is designed to allow countries to access funding on short notice to strengthen their veterinarian and health services to deal with avian flu outbreaks among animals and minimise the threat posed to people and prepare for, and respond to, any potential human flu pandemic.

Yelena Baialinova, a spokeswoman for the Kyrgyz health ministry, said that there would be three main spheres of activity in the World Bank-supported project.

«As for the vet service, it will include vaccination and tracing the movement of birds along with related research. The second component is the protection of humans, or medical side, while the third one is the awareness raising of the general population,» Baialinova explained.

In Kyrgyzstan, where there have been no confirmed cases so far, the World Bank assistance would also help improve animal surveillance and care; prepare health services to respond to human cases of infection; draft a national communications strategy; and help health and agricultural ministries coordinate their work in times of crisis.

«We have developed our national strategy [on the prevention of bird flu outbreaks] and it is now pending approval by the government. We are doing everything possible [to avert any bird flu outbreaks], but you cannot do much without having enough resources,» Shteinke noted.

Meanwhile, the office of Kyrgyzstan’s chief veterinary inspector banned at the end of 2005 imports of any animals and animal products, including poultry and eggs, from countries where outbreaks of avian flu had been reported.

«There is a risk of bird flu being propagated by migratory birds and we are taking all measures for the detection and prevention of the infection. We have scrutinised the routes of the migratory birds and the veterinary surveillance of reservoirs has been boosted,» Kalysbek Jumakanov, chief veterinary inspector, was quoted by the Kyrgyz AkiPress news agency as saying on Sunday.


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