Vietnam says it will need more than US$400 million for bird flu

Vietnam needs more than US$400 million ( Ђ 322 million) to fight bird flu and prepare for a potential pandemic over the next five years, and expects about half to come from international donors, an official said Friday.

The funding would be used to strengthen both the animal and human health sectors as laid out in Vietnam's mid- and long-term plan, said Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat.

"We realize this is a very dangerous disease, but if we can do it in a concerted way with our best effort, then we can surely prevent it," he said.

More than 30 experts from 12 organizations, including the World Health Organization, the European Commission and the World Bank, have spent the past two weeks taking stock of Vietnam's progress and helping the country finalize its longer term strategies to battle the H5N1 bird flu virus.

Vietnam will present its draft plan next week at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation bird flu meeting in Danang. It will be attended by health and agricultural ministers of the 21-nation group and other agencies, such as the WHO.

The Vietnamese government and private sector would contribute about US$225 million ( Ђ 181 million) to help restructure Vietnam's poultry industry, which has been hit hard by the spread of the virus.

Vietnam has not reported any poultry outbreaks since December and no human bird flu cases since November. Experts have attributed that success to a mass poultry vaccination campaign that began last year, combined with increased surveillance and awareness.

But Hans Troedsson, WHO representative in Vietnam, said Vietnam must remain on alert.

"If there would be complacency now, Vietnam would be facing imminent risk," he said. "What's important is that we are not having a false security thinking that the threat is over from avian influenza in Vietnam," reports the AP.

I.L.