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UNICEF launches EU-sponsored 240000-euro project against avian flu in Kazakhstan

A joint press release of the European Commission and UN Children’s Fund in Kazakhstan

ASTANA/KAZAKSTAN, 6 February 2007 - The European Commission announced this week it will allocate 240,000 Euros to prevent the spread of avian flu in Kazakhstan. The funds will support a joint project between the Kazakh Health Ministry, the European Commission and UNICEF to educate the public about the disease and how to prevent it.

“The European Commission is one of the major donors in the world in the fight against avian flu. It supports actions worldwide not only to increase the capacity of governments to deal with this disease but also to help governments prepare their readiness to communicate such issues to the public at large,” Adriaan van der Meer, head of the European Commission delegation to the region, said at a news conference. “I am pleased that some of the funds could be made available to Kazakhstan so that we can inform the people of this issue. I am looking forward to close cooperation on this together with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health,” van der Meer said.

The project will be carried out by UNICEF in close cooperation with Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Health, local authorities, NGOs and other partners.   “UNICEF will assign an additional amount of US $80,000 to this project for the prevention of avian and human influenza in Kazakhstan.

The reason for this is that half of the confirmed infected human cases have been children. The consequences of this illness affect their health through different complications," said UNICEF Representative, Alexandre Zouev. “We should not forget the primary role of UNICEF – to protect children in any situation.”

Zouev underlined that according to World Health Organization data, mortality from avian influenza is about 65 per cent, and currently of the 270 people already infected, 164 of them have died. 

“The prevention of the avian and human influenza (AHI) spread depends on the rapid dissemination of information on how to handle poultry and increased awareness of skills among the population necessary for their personal protection and the protection of their children from AHI.

These funds are to be spent on a wide communication campaign aimed at increasing general awareness of people about AHI. This work will be carried out in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and other key partners,” continued the UNICEF Representative.

“I would like to thank the European Commission for their contribution and extensive support. To minimize possible losses connected with the infection of AHI, the government of Kazakhstan needs information assistance, knowledge and international experience in this field. Therefore, the Ministry of Health will closely collaborate with UNICEF on this issue,” Anatoliy Belonog, the chief sanitary doctor of Kazakhstan, said at the news conference.

The first cases of avian flu were registered in Kazakshtan in July and August of 2005, and last cases were found in March 2006. As avian flu continues to spread across the world (in Russia, China, Azerbaijan and Iran), experts do not exclude new outbreaks of avian flu in Kazakhstan.

If the pathogenic H5N1 virus of avian flu spreads along with human influenza in Kazakhstan, this may mutate into a human pandemic virus.

Now UNICEF will begin the implementation of the comprehensive in-country AHI risk communication strategic plan, which was developed together with the Ministry of Health. The project will cover parents and children, including those who live in remote areas, and they will be informed about the most efficient ways of preventing AHI spread. The government, in cooperation with sanitary epidemiological survey agencies, will establish an operational emergency response system and mechanisms for monitoring AHI.

UNICEF is on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For additional information, please contact:
Sultan Khudaibergenov, Communication Officer, UNICEF Kazakhstan
Email:  skudaibergenov@unicef.org

Aigul Nurgabilova, Health and Nutrition Project Assistant, UNICEF Kazakhstan
Email: anurgabilova@unicef.org
Tel: (3172) 326 206, 32 28 64




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