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  Straits Times 10 Sep 07
Project to help Indonesia tackle bird flu finally takes off
Administrative problems had delayed scheme to be set up at Tangerang
By Salim Osman

Channel NewsAsia 9 Apr 07
Singapore, US to help Indonesia fight bird flu outbreak

JAKARTA : Indonesia is fighting an uphill battle in its fight against bird flu.

The nation worst hit by the bird flu virus is now jointly working with neighbouring Singapore to control the spread of the H5N1 virus. This latest project will involve the United States and a number of international agencies.

75 human deaths out of the total 95 infected cases - that's the casualty rate in Indonesia from the bird flu virus. It's the highest incidence in the world, and efforts are on to prevent any possible human pandemic.

The district of Tangerang, with one of the highest bird flu fatalities, has been chosen to pilot the US$4.5 million project. Singapore is contributing US$1.5 million in addition to manpower and expertise.

"It includes strategies in surveillance of the disease in animals and humans, management of infected patients and control of disease in animals, including restructuring of the poultry farming system," says Singapore's Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

The three-year project will see collaborations with agencies like the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation.

"The objective of the pilot project is to translate Indonesia's national plan in a defined, localised geographical area, so as to determine and reduce the prevalence of the H5N1 avian influenza in this area by testing out how recommended approaches work on the ground. We would like to see it not on paper or theory, but how it'll work on the ground," says Aburizal Bakrie, Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare.

If successful, the model will be replicated in other parts of Indonesia.

The H5N1 virus has been found in 30 of the country's 33 provinces. And research has shown that the strain found in Indonesia is the most potent.

"Hopefully this human pandemic will never emerge, but we'll never know. As health ministers, we have to be prepared for the worst," says Mr Khaw.

Many experts see Indonesia as a weak link in the global effort to avert a possible pandemic.

But to be fair, there are huge challenges facing this big country, and the decentralised nature of the government's administration has complicated response efforts.

It is hoped that working directly with authorities at the local level such as Tangerang will bear faster and better results. - CNA /ls

Straits Times 10 Sep 07
Project to help Indonesia tackle bird flu finally takes off
Administrative problems had delayed scheme to be set up at Tangerang
By Salim Osman

JAKARTA - A JOINT project between Indonesia, Singapore and the United States to boost Jakarta's ability to curb the spread of bird flu is finally taking off almost two years after it was first conceived.

The project, which will be carried out at a cost of US$4.5million (S$6.8 million), is the brainchild of the three countries' leaders and was formulated when they met on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Seoul in November2005.

For a three-year period, experts will carry out work aimed at preventing the spread of the virus in Tangerang municipality in Banten province - the worst-hit area in terms of human deaths.

Tangerang's dense population of almost two million people and hundreds of backyard poultry farms in residential areas are a microcosm of Indonesia. The municipality covers 200 sq km.

The aim is to help Indonesia translate its national strategy plan into a defined and localised geographical area. The lessons learnt there could then be applied to other areas nationwide.

But the project has taken more than a year to get under way due to administrative problems. Complicated bureaucracy got in the way of funds being channelled from Indonesian government coffers to the project, while organising a series of meetings between officials of the three countries to hammer out the details proved tricky.

'We wanted to carry out the project sooner, but because of these problems, the project launch was delayed several times,' said Dr Nyoman Kandun, head of the communicable diseases control division at the Indonesian Health Ministry.

Indonesia has the highest number of human bird flu deaths in the world, with the virus infecting 106 people over the past two years, including 85 who died.

Indonesian officials told The Straits Times that Jakarta had been working with Singapore officials in getting the project under way since it was agreed by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and US President George W. Bush in 2005.

So far, a project secretariat with a full-time staff of 15 has been set up at the Health Ministry under its communicable diseases control division to carry out detailed planning and coordinating functions.

In addition, a number of human and animal health workers have been trained to conduct surveillance, set up outbreak response systems and collect data and samples.

Since June, the project team has been conducting a census-style survey to assess the number of people, hospitals, clinics and poultry farms in the area. 'If an outbreak occurs, such data will help us in our response,' said Dr Gindo Simanjuntak, the secretariat's executive secretary.

Health officials from Singapore have been lending a hand with organisational and technical aspects of the project, and will provide technical assistance for the three-year duration.

A memorandum of understanding with the Republic was signed in May, with Singapore contributing US$1.5 million to the project and Indonesia providing US$2.25 million. The rest of the money will come from international organisations.

On the US role in the project, Dr Kandun said Washington's contribution would include providing technical assistance, promoting animal health and making available facilities at the Singapore-based Regional Emerging Diseases Intervention Centre, which it set up jointly with Singapore.

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