Vietnam says Needs $150 Million Aid to Combat Bird Flu

Bui Ba Bong, Vice Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, said in an interview that backyard farming and live poultry markets in rural areas posed the greatest risk as they were most difficult to control.

He was speaking during a conference in Geneva held among 400 veterinary and health officials from more than 100 countries to draw up a global strategy against the H5N1 virus which has killed 64 people in four Asian countries so far.

Some $50 million in aid was needed for 2005-2006 and another $100 million by 2010 to step up control and detection measures on both the animal and human fronts, according to Bong.

"We need a total of $150 million from the international community and hope after the meeting to get additional assistance," he told Reuters.

Vietnam’s communist government would spend about $350 million, making a total investment of $500 million, he added.

So far it has received $10 million in technical assistance and financial support from bilateral and multilateral donors, including the United States, China and the Netherlands, he said.

Since bird flu arrived in Vietnam in December 2003, 92 people in the country are known to have caught the virus, fanning the fears of experts that the virus could mutate into a form passed easily between people and unleash a global pandemic.

Two new human cases in Vietnam, one suspect and one confirmed, have been recorded in the past week — signalling fresh transmission between animals and humans.

A 3?-year-old man from Hanoi who died on Oct. 29 after eating a chicken with his family was confirmed on Tuesday as the first human victim of the latest outbreak.

The victim had developed a slight fever after eating the chicken and was taken to Bach Mai hospital on Oct. 26 with respiratory difficulties. He died three days later.

Doctors said they suspected bird flu also killed a 68-year- old man in the central province of Quang Tri on Sunday, a day after he was taken to the General Hospital in Hue city.

"Our biggest concern is rearing practices in the country. Backyard practices are very difficult to control," Bong said.

HYGIENE STANDARDS

Vietnam has banned live poultry markets in big cities but small live markets can be found scattered across rural areas and slaughtering does not always meet hygiene standards, Bong said. "This makes it very easy for the virus remaining in the environment to be transmitted to humans," he said.

Bong said Vietnam had vaccinated 80 million chickens and ducks against the virus so far and it aimed to vaccinate 150 million by the end of the month.

This would mean 70 percent of the country’s flocks were protected, with higher coverage in high-risk provinces and less in remote mountainous areas in the north, he added.

"Seventy percent is sufficient for the whole country. The risky provinces will be 90 percent vaccinated," Bong said.

Vietnam has spent $100 million helping farmers cope with the disease. It has slaughtered 45 million poultry so far, mainly last year, giving farmers $1 per chicken, which only represents about one-third to one-half of the market price, he said.

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