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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 January 2006, 13:44 GMT
$1.9bn pledged for bird flu fight
A chicken in a market in Jerusalem
Poultry farmers in many countries are being hit by culls
Donor countries meeting in China have pledged $1.9bn (1.1bn) to fight bird flu worldwide, much more than expected.

The money includes more than $330m from the US and more than $250m from the European Union, a US official said.

The funds will be largely spent on health and vet services aiming to prevent the H5N1 virus mutating and spreading from human to human.

The World Bank had asked donors for $1.5bn to fight the virus, which has killed nearly 80 people.

QUICK GUIDE

Earlier, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had urged nations at the conference to make a "tremendous effort".

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who chaired the meeting's final day, had also called on rich nations to open their wallets to contain and beat the virus.

Infections growing

The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed at least 79 people, mainly in Asia, since 2003.

Soon after the conference ended, China announced that a 35-year-old woman had died of the disease in the south-western province of Sichuan, on 11 January. The death, if confirmed, would take China's toll to six.

World Bank Vice President Jim Adams (left) with UN bird flu co-ordinator David Nabarro
The World Bank says a pandemic could disrupt the world economy

The United Nations bird flu co-ordinator, David Nabarro, who is in Beijing for the conference, told the BBC that the world was not prepared for a major outbreak among humans.

Animal health services around the world are not strong enough to monitor bird flu outbreaks effectively and cull poultry flocks, Mr Nabarro said.

He warned that significant resources were needed immediately to strengthen veterinary services.

Almost all human sufferers were in close contact with infected birds and there has so far been no confirmed case of human-to-human transmission.

Outbreaks in Indonesia and Turkey have continued, with Indonesia confirming its 14th human death on Tuesday, and Turkey diagnosing at least 21 cases of bird flu in humans.

Economic impact

Representatives from more than half the world's nations were in Beijing for the conference, the second specifically convened to deal with bird flu.

WHERE WOULD THE MONEY GO?
East Asia and the Pacific - $635.2m
Eastern Europe and Central Asia - $224.6m
Africa - $147.1m
Middle East and North Africa - $110.1m
South Asia - $76.0m
Latin America and Caribbean - $9.2m
Source: World Bank

The European Commission pledged $122m, and EU members states have promised $140m.

That pales in comparison to $4bn the US has set aside to prepare for a pandemic at home, says the BBC's Louisa Lim in Beijing.

The World Bank has forecast that the economic cost to the world's economy during the first year of any pandemic could reach $800bn.

Margaret Chan, the World Health Organization's (WHO) top pandemic expert, told the conference that the cost of acting now was "peanuts" compared to the potential losses in the event of a pandemic.

A World Bank official said nearly half the money would be spent in Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Laos, countries where bird populations have been seriously hit by the virus.

Indonesia says it is struggling to pay compensation to farmers hit by a mandatory cull of poultry, and has asked for $500m.

The conference received another boost with the decision by Swiss drug maker Roche Holding AG to produce enough of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu for an extra two million people.

There is already enough of the drug to treat three million people.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See Kofi Annan speaking at the bird flu conference



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