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NZAID project to control bird flu in Viet Nam

23 February 2004

NZAID funds project to control bird flu in Viet Nam

NZAID, New Zealand’s international aid and development agency, is to contribute US$140,000 to help control the spread of the deadly bird flu virus sweeping through Viet Nam.

Viet Nam is the worst hit of the Asian countries affected by the fast-moving avian flu, with 15 people confirmed dead and almost all of the country’s 64 provinces are known to be infected with the virus.

Asia is on a region-wide health alert, with 10 Asian governments slaughtering at least 80 million chickens and other fowl in efforts to control the outbreak. In Viet Nam alone, 64 million chickens and ducks, representing almost a quarter of the nation’s poultry, will be culled this month in a bid to slow the deadly spread.

NZAID, which funds aid and development projects in Viet Nam to the tune of up to $5 million a year, is concerned the widespread culling of poultry will leave the country’s farmers destitute, not to mention the risks to public health and safety.

The agency is to fund CARE International, a global humanitarian and developmental organisation, to carry out a year-long project to help affected farming families in the Binh Dinh province recover from the loss of their livestock and livelihoods, as well as trying to prevent human contamination through the disinfection of other stock, and promoting safe handling practices.

NZAID development programme manager for Viet Nam, Jane Coster, said the effects of culling millions of birds this month would be potentially devastating for farmers in Binh Dinh province, which is hard-hit but still free of known human contamination. At least 50 communes in eight of Binh Dinh’s 11 districts have been infected.

“Many Viet Nam farmers raise nothing but poultry. These farmers have already lost more than a million birds to the flu, and once the widespread culling begins, their livelihoods will be completely threatened.”

Jane Coster said the project would help contain the current epidemic, and mitigate against the economic impact of the virus in the worst affected areas.

The US$140,000 (approximately NZ$200,000) grant would allow CARE to provide compensatory grants to households that lose birds, in order for them to recover from the financial effects of the virus and diversify into alternative income sources to maintain their livelihoods. About 25,000 people would qualify for the grant. The Viet Nam government is also compensating its farmers.

CARE would also provide protective equipment and promote safe culling and handling practices, as well as disinfecting other livestock, such as pigs, which are susceptible to both human and bird flu viruses.

ENDS

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