Foreign funds to the tune of US$476 million have been donated for the cause of the global fight against bird flu at the Mali conference on Friday. Already about US$600 million is left with the UN from the US$1.9 billion collected after the January conference in Beijing. Organizers of the Mali conference had hoped for up to twice the amount pledged on Friday, but are happy with what they had. 'I'm mighty pleased. This is a very good result,' said U.N. influenza coordinator Dr. David Nabarro.
A part of the money pledged would be spent for the development of veterinary infrastructures and for establishing early warning and reporting systems in Africa.
Health experts insist that the only way of handling bird flu and be prepared to handle a mutated strain before it makes its appearance, is to improve health and veterinary facilities worldwide.
The globe is united in the effort to combat the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain, as it is feared that it could mutate into a human virus that could kill millions.
H5N1 first began to infect poultry in Asia in 2003; since then the disease has spread to Europe, the Middle East and Africa and killed 154 people in all, according to the World Health Organization. The Bird flu has made its presence felt in 55 nations across the globe.
Researchers believe that the virus still has 'a high potential of spreading,' particularly in Africa, which is already struggling with diseases like AIDS and malaria that are attacking millions of people.
'There is the possibility of avian influenza becoming firmly rooted in poultry in some regions, which increase the risk of the virus spreading across the continent,' the statement circulated at the Mali conference said.
'If not detected, reported promptly and contained effectively, a pandemic could potentially kill millions and cause catastrophic consequences,' the statement said.