Asian Development Bank (ADB) launched a $38 million project along with major regional development organizations to combat the bird flu threat in Asia and the Pacific.
The Manila-based ADB said Friday that the project would provide resources urgently needed to help control and reduce the spread of the deadly H5N1 virus, and to increase the region's preparedness for a potential human pandemic.
The project, part of up to $470 million in funds pledged by the ADB to fight avian flu, was designed in coordination with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the WHO.
"There is a wide agreement that the best strategy to prevent a pandemic is to contain the threat at the source, when it still affects mainly the bird populations," said Indu Bhushan, chairman of the ADB's task force on avian influenza.
"The project will enable each country to draw on the expertise and experience of others, pool resources and respond more effectively to outbreaks, while addressing the significant gap in funding to improve readiness for a pandemic," Bhushan explained.
The H5N1 virus has killed 98 people in Asia, the Middle East and Turkey since 2003. It has devastated poultry industries in affected countries, triggering the culling of millions of chicken and other birds.
According to a recent ADB study, a human flu pandemic - which experts have warned could kill up to seven million people - would cost Asia $297 billion in one year and throw the world economy into recession.