The United Nations has called for wealthy countries to increase their contributions to help control the spread of bird flu in south-east Asia, warning a major gap in funding threatens to undermine efforts to halt the virulent H5N1 virus at its source.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation said on Monday it was $80m short of the $100m it needs over the next three years to fund programmes to stop the bird flu virus from spreading.
Epidemiologists believe the virus could mutate into a form easily transmitted between humans and touch off a global pandemic with developing Asian countries, now fighting the disease, thought to be the likely source.
Experts are also warning of a gap in preparedness between wealthy countries stockpiling anti-viral drugs and developing countries such as Indonesia, which is facing a growing outbreak and remains ill-prepared.
The FAO said additional funding was needed for culls and animal vaccination programmes, which in some cases presented small windows of opportunity for effective action.
?It makes sense to stockpile anti-viral drugs to protect humans against a potential avian influenza pandemic, but at the same time we have to contain the virus at source, in animals, to reduce the risk to people,? said the FAO's chief veterinarian, Joseph Domenech.
Vietnam needed $10m to go ahead with an ?ambitious programme? to vaccinate all poultry in at-risk provinces before winter, according to the FAO, while ?Indonesia also needs strong financial support?.
The plea for funds came as the World Health Organisation said it was monitoring 13 additional suspected human cases of bird flu in Indonesia.
Officials there recorded two more fatalities from H5N1 on Monday, bringing the toll to six dead in the country. Four other people have tested positive for the virus.
Concerns are growing among Indonesia's neighbours about what remains its often confused response to bird flu.
Australia on Monday said it would send 50,000 courses of anti-viral drugs to Indonesia with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer fretting that Jakarta had ?been caught a bit short, to tell you the truth, and they're finding it difficult to handle.?
In the Philippines, officials also expressed fears migratory birds flying from Indonesia, where the virus is endemic in many provinces, may bring H5N1 to their shores.
Additional reporting by Taufan Hidayat
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