Inner City Press

Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting Since 1987

From the inner city to Wall Street to the United Nations

- In Other Media   For further information, click here to contact us         .

Home -For the Media
Bank Beat/ RSS Feed
Freedom of Information
Human Rights
Current Campaigns
How to Contact Us

Inner City Press Global Inner Cities Report - January 11, 2006

Who Pays for the Global Bird Flu Fight? Not the Corporations, So Far

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee, for Inner City Press

The United Nations’ expert on avian flu, Dr. David Nabarro, briefed reporters in New York on January 11. He named a target figure for the upcoming “pledge conference” in Beijing -- $1.4 billion. He then asked reporters not to quote him, or to leave this figure “vague” and not have it appears in the headlines. But already the number had gone out over the wires, and it is in the headline of most reports.

            Who is being asked to pledge the needed funds? When asked by Inner City Press for his view of HSBC Banking Corporation’s projection that half of its workforce in impacted countries might not show up for work, Dr. Nabarro said much thought is needed on how best to communicate the risks posed by bird flu. He added that planning for “continuity” is needed among health, electricity and banking systems, among others.

            When asked if any corporations have pledged fund to the bird flu fight, Dr. Nabarro said no. Some, or perhaps only one, have offered employees’ time, but no money. After the formal briefing, Inner City Press suggested to Dr. Nabarro that at least such food companies as KFC might see it in their interest to pledge (and to be seen to have pledged). There was some laughter, but no response. A close observer of the United Nations might wonder, if the UN’s Global Compact with corporations can’t be mobilized for the global bird flu threat, which would impact companies’ workforces, when then would the Compact be useful?

            In Turkey, the bird flu H5N1 has been discovered in poultry over 20% of the country's 81 provinces and thus far over 300,000 birds have been culled, a process Dr. Nabarro described as putting the birds in a bag, killing and then most often burying them. When asked why cremation was not being used, Dr. Nabarro alluded to factors he could not explain. Of children’s deaths in Turkey by bird flu, Dr. Nabarro said the children were abnormally close with the birds, giving rise to some muffled laughter in the briefing room. “This is serious,” Dr. Nabarro said. And it is. Since December 2003, at least 147 cases of H5N1 in human have been reported, from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam, according to the World Health Organization, leading so far to 78 deaths.

            Dr. Nabarro praised governmental responses to bird flu in Turkey and other countries that he would not name. “In some countries there is more reliance on the United Nations,” he said, emphasizing that nations should promptly diagnose and disclose cases of H5N1. While Dr. Nabarro declined to name any countries in which such disclosures might not be forthcoming, one reporter jotted such nations as Myanmar and North Korea.  The pledge conference is in Beijing, January 17-18, 2006. There’ll be a need to follow up.

* * *

Endnote and Global Inner Cities UN Update: Following the December 28, 2005 briefing on the Development Fund for Iraq, neither the International Monetary Fund and it spokesman nor the UN have provided any information about the metering of oil production in Iraq, for which they stated a contract had been let out to an American corporation which they left unnamed. The wait continues.  Meanwhile, in UN facility news, the delegation computers in the basement hallway have been changed, to newer machines that still work slowly, if at all, with the Internet. In the UN’s second language, plus ca change

           ©opyright 2005-2006 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editors [at] - phone: (718) 716-3540