started to flow from the coffers of the European
Commission to help the developing world prepare for a bird
flu pandemic, some six months after it was pledged,
officials at the EU executive said on Friday.
The Commission has promised 100 million euros ($127
million) to help fight the disease, adding its weight to
other donors such as Japan and the United States that
together pledged nearly $1.9 billion
at a conference held in Beijing in January.
However, in a joint report issued earlier this week, the
United Nations and World Bank complained that only a
fraction of this combined amount had been paid so far.
While donor countries had allocated $1.15 billion for bird
flu aid from their budgets by the end of April, they had
transferred just $331 million to recipients, the report
said, also singling out the Commission for not
distributing any funds.
But Commission officials said some cash was now on its
"All the money should reach beneficiaries by the end of
the year, the whole amount," one told Reuters. "In the
last week of June, money has actually gone out -
23 million (euros) as an
advance payment, or 50 percent of the total commitment."
That particular commitment refers to a pledge of 50
million euros to be mostly channelled through a
Multi-Donor Trust Fund administered by the World Bank to
help countries hit by bird flu in Asia, the Mediterranean
and eastern Europe. The Commission has also promised 30
million euros for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP)
countries - mostly former colonies of nations such as
Britain, France and Portugal. A further internal
decision was needed from the Commission for the money to
start flowing from this element of the aid package and
this was taken earlier in July, the official said.
The final part of the pledge, 20 million euros for
research into avian and pandemic influenza, is still under
Although the avian influenza virus affects mostly wild
birds, experts fear it may change into a form that can be
easily transmitted among humans, sweeping the world and
killing millions within weeks or months.
The H5N1 bird flu strain has caused outbreaks in more than
48 countries and territories since re-emerging in Asia
three years ago, and has killed more than 130 people.