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ZAMBIA - Pandemic Preparedness

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  • ZAMBIA - Pandemic Preparedness

    Zambia budgets $4,000 to fight bird flu
    21 Feb 2006

    JOHANNESBURG, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Zambia has budgeted just over $4,000 to fight bird flu this year, outraging local media commentators who said the funds were too little to combat the deadly H5N1 strain that reached Africa earlier this month.

    A Treasury official said the government had set aside 20 million kwacha ($4,334) in its 2006 state budget for the health ministry to tackle a possible pandemic.

    The privately owned newspaper The Post said the sum was less than the 70 million kwacha allocated to wrestling, a sport with little appeal in Zambia.

    "We need to pay special attention when it comes to improving our preparedness for a pandemic," the Post said in an editorial.

    Africa's first confirmed cases of the lethal H5N1 strain of bird flu were reported in birds in Nigeria this month. H5N1 has killed at least 92 people in Asia and the Middle East.

    African governments are rushing to register medicines and set aside millions of dollars to deal with a bird flu outbreak.

    Impoverished Zambia is already struggling under the twin burdens of AIDS and malaria and could prove fertile ground for human infections from bird flu, with millions of rural dwellers living in close proximity to backyard chickens.