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NZ gives over $1 million to tackle SARS

NZ gives over $1 million to tackle SARS in China and Pacific

New Zealand has pledged $850,000 of aid money to help China fight the potentially fatal disease, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

At the same time a further $300,000 of NZAID funding will help Pacific Island countries prepare in the event of a SARS case reaching the Pacific.

NZAID is the semi-autonomous agency within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade responsible for New Zealand’s international aid budget.

"China is battling a major disease and anything we can do to help stop the spread of SARS is in everybody's interest," Aid Minister Marian Hobbs said.

New Zealand's contribution in China will go towards technical assistance in provinces with large numbers of reported SARS cases, and to provinces who have so far reported only a small number of cases, but need to establish how prepared they are if the situation gets worse. New Zealand funding will also go towards an international collaborative network to research the new disease.

$700,000 of the allocated money for China will be channelled through the World Health Organisation, which is co-ordinating the response to SARS in China. The other $150,000 will go to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), which is working with the Chinese Red Cross in China.

"So far in our own region, no Pacific Island countries are known to be affected by SARS, but we need to make sure they're prepared should cases occur. There's a lot of movement between New Zealand and other Pacific countries and we can’t afford to take any risks," Marian Hobbs said.

NZAID funding in the Pacific will go to the SARS Task Force, jointly staffed by World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Secretariat for the Pacific Community (SPC).

"This gives us an opportunity to establish protocols, training, and management techniques in the Pacific about how to control other infectious diseases too," Marian Hobbs said. "These systems will still be in place after the SARS crisis has passed."

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