Central American and Caribbean Countries Coordinate Avian Flu Response

November 15, 2005.  

“The most immediate economic impacts of a pandemic might arise not from actual death or sickness but from the uncoordinated efforts of people to avoid becoming infected,” said the World Bank’s lead economist for East Asia and the Pacific, Milan Brahmbhatt, at the avian influenza summit in Geneva. Heeding this call for a coordinated response, key officials in Central America and the Caribbean met through GDLN to explore concrete areas of collaboration as individual countries begin to formulate strategies against the avian flu. At the urgent request of Nicaragua's minister of health, the GDLN session on November 9, 2005 brought together ministers and vice-ministers of health and agriculture, representatives of the media and non-governmental organizations, and officials of the Pan-American Health Organization, the World Health Organization, and the World Bank.


The idea that knowledge is power was the key premise of the session, which connected participants in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Switzerland, and Washington. Facilitated by Nicaraguan health minister Margarita Guardián, discussions emphasized the need to “Informar, no alarmar” (inform, not alarm). Key outcomes of the session include commitments to harmonize national and regional strategies for preventing an avian flu pandemic; share national strategies to determine individual strengths and identify potential weaknesses; solicit the Pan-American Health Organization’s support in enhancing the capacity of laboratories in the region to produce anti-viral medicine; and improve communication to inform and prevent panic among the general population.


Jesús Maria Fernandez, a health specialist in the World Bank’s regional department for Latin America and the Caribbean, also announced the Bank’s intention to commit 0 million for technical and financial assistance to help countries adapt global response plans to local needs. “I know you all expressed concerns about funding your avian flu activities,” he said, “and I am happy to announce that the Bank will support countries in this fight.”


The session was organized by the GDLN Center in Nicaragua, together with the Pan-American Health Organization and the World Bank's team for GDLN in Latin America and the Caribbean. At the suggestion of the GDLN Center in El Salvador, discussions were continued in a second GDLN session on November 10.


Günther Manske

Dr. Günther Manske