New $11-Million Project To Target Avian Influenza

Emphasizing Cambodia’s particular vulnerability to bird flu, the World Bank is planning a new $11-million project aimed at managing future outbreaks of the virus among Cambodian poultry and people, according to documents re­ceived Monday.

Cambodia is sandwiched be­tween Vietnam and Thailand, which both produce large quantities of poultry and have experienced some of the worst bird-flu outbreaks in the world, according to a document on the project distributed by the Bank.

The Bank calls Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand a “potential flashpoint” for bird flu and the feared emergence of a human pandemic strain of avian influenza.

The funds are divided into four components: animal health, human health, education and government capacity-building. The main implementing agencies are the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization and the UN Development Program.

Vietnam and Thailand have be­gun to effectively manage bird flu, and it is now time for the international community to focus on Cambodia, said Guy Freeland, team leader for the avian influenza program at FAO, which will receive $6.14 million of the Bank’s money.

The World Bank project, which will divide its funds over the next three years, will begin in earnest in June or July and largely complement ongoing efforts to manage the H5N1 virus, Freeland said.

The FAO plans to use some mon­ey to build a new laboratory, improve refrigeration systems necessary for the transport of vaccines and virus samples, and train more than 4,000 villagers to identify and manage bird-flu outbreaks, he added.

In roughly the last two years, the FAO and the Agriculture Ministry have already trained almost 5,000 village animal health workers.

Michael O’Leary, country representative for WHO, said the World Bank project is the result of growing international concern that bird flu could mutate and create pandemic influenza in humans.

“So far, mutation has not taken place, but it could at any time, and we can’t predict when it might,” O’Leary said.

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