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International Ministerial Conference on Avian and Pandemic Influenza

Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
Session 1: Inaugural Plenary: Welcoming Remarks
Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
October 25, 2008

Prime Minister Nazif, thank you for your steadfast leadership on this critical issue of avian influenza. Minister of Health and Population al-Gabaly and Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation Abaza, thank you for your welcoming addresses. On behalf of the United States, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to the Government of Egypt for the tremendous effort dedicated to preparing this important and timely gathering here in Sharm el-Sheik. It is a most hospitable setting to advance our common plans for preparing against outbreaks of avian and pandemic influenza.

It is my very great pleasure to join the co-sponsors of this conference, and all delegates in attendance, as we continue the global focus on avian influenza that began with the meeting of the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza in Washington in 2005, and has progressed through a series of highly successful international conferences in Beijing, Vienna, Bamako, and New Delhi.

I need not remind all of you that -- while we continue to battle the spread of avian influenza in poultry, and it remains endemic in several countries -- we are indeed fortunate that we have not yet experienced the global human influenza pandemic that we still fear.

Yet, this respite has come with a cost: a growing feeling that the threat of an influenza pandemic has somehow diminished, and that scarce resources could be better used elsewhere in the field of public health -- in other words, “flu fatigue.”

We know better. To quote WHO Director General Margaret Chan in May, “Pandemic influenza is…looming on the horizon. The threat has by no means receded and we would be very unwise to let down our guard, or slacken our preparedness measures.” That is why we have gathered here.

You in this hall are well aware of the urgency of the situation.

The United States, through the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza, through international and non-governmental organizations, and bilaterally, has been honored to work with you in addressing the threat – a threat that has economic, social, health and security ramifications. Our collective action has been critical.

Certainly, the nations and organizations represented by my colleagues here have been generous in your contributions to, and efforts on behalf of, the global campaign against avian and pandemic influenza.

Together, through the New Delhi ministerial conference last December, the international community had pledged $2.7 billion to this effort. More pledges will be announced tomorrow.

The United States has been a generous contributor in this regard. Our pledge of international assistance toward combating avian and pandemic influenza amounted to $629 million through the New Delhi conference.

Let me assure you that the United States continues its focus on the threat we all face. It is in that light that I am pleased to let you know now what our delegation will announce officially during the pledging session on Sunday: that the United States is pledging an additional $320 million in international assistance for avian and pandemic influenza. This will bring our new total pledge to $949 million. We hope that other donors will be coming forward with additional support tomorrow. We must continue to be vigilant in our collective mission, in combating avian and pandemic influenza.

Thanks again to our Egyptian hosts. We look forward to a most successful and productive conference.

Released on October 30, 2008

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