UN-Led Alliance to Develop Bird Flu Early-Warning System
An alliance of organizations led by the United Nations will develop an avian flu early-warning system able to alert
countries and communities to the arrival of potentially infected wild birds, the world body's environment agency
announced today in Nairobi, Kenya.
Although experts said it could take two years to be fully realized, the new initiative by the Convention on Migratory
Species with support and funding from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will warn authorities on different continents
that migratory water birds are on their way.
Experts from other leading organizations such as Wetlands International, Birdlife International and the International
Wildlife and Game Federation are also expected to be part of the scheme.
Special maps are to be developed for individual countries pinpointing the precise locations such as lakes, marshes and
other wetland areas where the birds are likely to go.
Armed with this information, local health and environment bodies on continents like Africa, Asia and in Latin America
will be better able to prioritize their planning and response, which could include warning farmers to move poultry away
from key wetlands so as to minimize cross transmission with migratory birds.
"Precise information on the places where migratory birds go, including their resting sites and finally destinations is
currently scattered across a myriad of organizations, bodies and groups," said Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of
UNEP. "It is absolutely vital that this is brought together in a way that is useful to those dealing with the threat of
this pandemic backed up by high quality, precision, mapping."
Robert Hepworth, the Convention's Executive Secretary, pledged to work with UNEP and other partners to develop this
early-warning system, but said that could take as long as two years.
"But we know that it is needed and we know that the issue of avian flu and similar infections is likely to be a
long-tersuch a system should be useful not only over the short but over the long term too."
News of the system came as hundreds of delegates gathered in Nairobi for the eighth Conference of the Parties to the
Convention, which opens tomorrow and runs until Friday.