Gov’t, NGOs Meet To Discuss Bird Flu Plans

Representatives of more than 100 NGOs on Friday began discus­sing the best way to coordinate disaster plans with the government in pre­paration for a potential pandemic of avian influenza.

Officials discussed how NGOs and the government will work to­gether to combat the spread of the virus and inform Cambodians how to deal with outbreaks.

Sharon Wilkinson, country director of CARE, the organization that sponsored the meeting, said the fo­cus was to try and ensure that all pre­paredness plans drafted by NGOs working in the country ac­curately reflected government strategies to contain a public health cri­sis if the H5N1 bird flu strain sparks a pandemic.

“It’s important because we can’t all be doing different things in the case of a potential disaster on this scale,” Wilkinson said Monday.

“So this is one step toward a co­or­dinated plan, but there’s a lot of steps still left to go,” she said.

Tan Try, a local program officer with the UN Children’s Fund, said that it’s crucial that NGOs and the Ministry of Health and National Committee for Disaster Manage­ment work in a “collaborative way to avoid confusion.”

He said that plans call for various agencies to begin working with the Ministry of Health to launch a proposed seasonal flu campaign in Cam­bodia. The campaign would fo­cus on getting the word out to rural communities about the importance of maintaining good hygiene, such as frequent hand washing, to prevent the spread of human flu.

This is important because health officials say that by keeping the number of people with normal flu down to a minimum, the chances of a viral mutation of bird flu taking place would be reduced greatly.

Health officials fear that the avian influenza strain could exchange genes in a person who already has the human flu, resulting in a new flu strain that could then transmit from person to person.

 

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