$1.9 billion pledged to combat avian flu

Published 20 January 2006

The World Bank wanted $1.2 billion to fight avian flu, but 33 nations have pledged $1.9 billion, allowing poorer nations to rely more on grants than loans in combating the pandemic

Thirty-three countries and international institutions pledged $1.9 billion to fight the disease. The pledges, at the conclusion of a two-day conference in Beijing, are greater than the $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion that the World Bank had said was needed over the next three years. Not that the World Bank objects: James Adams, the World Bank’s VP for operations policy and country services, said that the extra money would allow poor countries to rely more on grants than loans in fighting the disease. The $1.9 billion includes $1 billion in grants and $900 million in loans, including $500 million in World Bank loans. Poor countries in Asia have been reluctant to borrow heavily to fight a disease that they see as a global problem. By now it is, as migratory birds have carried the virus out of southern China and southeast Asia to infect chickens around the Black Sea and in the Caucasus, leading to illnesses in at least 20 people in Turkey.

The United States pledged $334 million in grants, of which $31.3 million is money transferred from funds previously earmarked for helping survivors of the Asian tsunami on 26 December 2004. Note that $280 million comes from new bird flu-related legislation passed by Congress just before Christmas, while another $22.7 million comes mostly from allocating money previously set aside for international health issues.

-read more in this New York Times report