OR WAIT null SECS
WASHINGTON -- At the International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Pandemic Influenza in Beijing next week, the European Commission will pledge its external response to the threat of avian flu, including a grant of up to euro 80 million to combat the spread of the virus in developing countries, particularly in Asia. The conference's aim is to mobilize and co-ordinate the financial support from donors to boost the response to avian influenza and potential flu pandemic at the national, regional and global level. The lion's share of the pledged monies will support integrated national response strategies in third countries in addition to the considerable efforts these countries themselves are making.
The Commission's contribution, coming from the external relations budgets and the European Development Fund, will be announced on behalf of the Commission by Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner, Markos Kyprianou. This will add to contributions provided by EU member states, and will feed into the total pledged by all donors attending the conference. The meeting will gather more than 90 countries, as well as 25 organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Welcoming this joint international effort, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, commissioner for external relations and neighborhood policy, said, "Next week's conference represents a key step in the global response to the spread of avian flu. I am sure that the significant funds that the Commission is providing will give crucial support to the most needy countries in Asia, Africa, and neighboring countries in Europe, Middle East and North Africa and will reinforce their strategies for tackling avian flu and averting the threat
of a pandemic."
Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel said, "We must take a global approach to this pandemic and we must anticipate and not just react to events. Hence, the European Commission stands ready to support all developing countries fight this potential threat. We will also have a special focus in Africa to counter the epidemiological risks and in particular the potential vulnerability of animal health systems in Africa."
Kyprianou said, "The EU puts its money where its mouth is. The Commission will provide a significant grant in addition to pledges from individual member states. We now have to work with the countries most affected by the avian influenza outbreak to increase surveillance, foster consistency between the veterinary and public health sides, boost contingency planning, and ensure co-ordination and exchange of information. That is the way to ultimately defeat this avian epidemic and prevent it from turning into a human
influenza pandemic of a new and potentially devastating kind."
The International Pledging Conference is co-sponsored by the government of the People's Republic of China, the European Commission and the World Bank. Building on the Geneva conference of November 2005, which identified the needs of countries most affected by avian influenza and foster preparedness in view of a possible human pandemic influenza, the conference will detail financial arrangements to address the socio-economic, animal and human health challenges posed by avian flu.
Participants at the conference are expected to announce their financial pledges in support to affected countries and countries at risk and agree on a "Beijing Declaration" that will spell out the key principles for a long-term international partnership to combat the Avian Influenza.
The Commission's euro 80 million contribution will be made up of euro 50 million from the Commission's 2006 External Relations budget and euro 30 million from the European Development Fund. The euro 30 million remains subject to approval of Asian, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries which is expected by April 2006.
Source: Delegation of the European Commission to the U.S.