|© Reuters/China Daily|
|A teacher demonstrates to children how to wash their hands, as a precautionary measure against influenza infection, at a kindergarten in Huaibei, Anhui province, China.|
NEW YORK, USA, 29 April, 2009 – As the World Health Organization (WHO) warns of an increased likelihood of a pandemic of Influenza A – also known as H1N1 – UNICEF is working with its UN partners to prepare for a potential outbreak.
WHO today raised its pandemic alert from level four to level five, indicating widespread human-to-human transmission and an increased likelihood of a pandemic.
“The value of UNICEF, in addition to WHO, is that it has the capacity to work with local communities to get the message through about what people can do to protect themselves,” said UNICEF Senior Health Advisor Dr. Osman David Mansoor.
Pandemic alert level raised
The virus appears to be spreading with some rapidity. Cases of swine flu are being reported in countries as far apart as Mexico, Israel, Spain, the United States and New Zealand.
|Commuters wear surgical face masks as they disembark from the Metro in Mexico City.|
“It shows that with air travel the virus can get to any place in the world very quickly,” said Dr. Mansoor.
“I think in two weeks or so we’ll find out whether this is the start of a pandemic of global scale or whether it’s not very much because the virus is not sufficiently adapted to humans,” he noted.
Effect on the poor
The UN remains concerned about a potential pandemic’s effect on countries already reeling from multiple crises and extreme poverty.
“Poorer nations are especially vulnerable,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “They have been hit hard by other crises this year: food, energy, the global economy, climate change. We must ensure that they are not also hit disproportionately hard by a potential health crisis.
“The World Bank and other UN development and humanitarian agencies will therefore mobilize to ensure that countries needing additional financial resources to combat an epidemic will have them,” added Mr. Ban.