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Red Cross bird flu appeal draws meagre response, despite need to prepare

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  • Red Cross bird flu appeal draws meagre response, despite need to prepare

    http://www.terra.net.lb/wp/Articles/...8&ChannelId=19

    Red Cross bird flu appeal draws meagre response, despite need to prepare
    June 17, 2006

    The meagre response by donors to an international Red Cross appeal to help prepare for a feared flu pandemic sparked by avian influenza is preventing the organisation from stepping up efforts, it said.

    The meagre response by donors to an international Red Cross appeal to help prepare for a feared flu pandemic sparked by avian influenza is preventing the organisation from stepping up efforts, it said.

    The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it has won almost no backing in the two months since it called for 17.4 million Swiss francs (13.4 million dollars, 11 million euros).

    The federation said it had gathered just 3.2 percent of the funds required, as the media spotlight has shifted in many countries.

    "Avian flu and a possible human pandemic are a real threat. Though the media headlines have disappeared the risk has not," says Dr Pierre Duplessis, the federation's bird flu chief.

    "We need to put preventive measures in place now as this will help communities worldwide to be better prepared should a crisis occur. An investment of 17 million Swiss francs is a good investment to save lives."

    A key plank of the federation's plan is to train 50,000 people to respond to the deadly H5N1 strain of avian influenza.

    The funds are also needed to cover the costs of informing communities about the risks of bird flu and pre-positioning relief supplies to deal with new outbreaks, the Red Cross said.

    The H5N1 virus has struck poultry flocks in dozens of countries and claimed more than a hundred human lives, mostly in Asia.

    Experts fear that it could mutate into a form that can be transmitted easily from human to human, thus creating a risk of a pandemic that could kill millions of people.

    The Red Cross said that the participation of communities to combat avian flu is crucial.

    For almost a year, national Red Cross and Crescent societies have been helping communities which could be at most risk, such as small scale poultry farmers, backyard poultry owners, rural poultry traders, women and children.

    "With migration patterns of wild birds commencing again in July, the risk of avian flu spreading across more countries and continents is real. Therefore the threat of a human pandemic will increase. We need to take preventive action now," said Dr Adelheid Marschang, senior health officer at the federation.

    In the past, preparedness measures have helped to minimise the effect of SARS, ebola and malaria, noted the federation.

    "The key advantage of disaster preparedness is that it is more cost effective than disaster response. Prevention is cheaper than cure," it said.
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