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Indonesia and Singapore united in working against bird flu

Updated On: Apr 18, 2006

Indonesia now has the second highest death rate after Vietnam with 23 casualties.

However, if confined to this year alone, Indonesia has had the most bird flu deaths of any country so far, leading some analysts to call Indonesia the next center of outbreak in the region. The seriousness of Indonesia’s situation is demonstrated by the fact that the highly pathogenic strain of bird flu has affected birds in about two-thirds of the country's provinces. While other Southeast Asian countries have brought bird flu under control using existing tactics, "something is not working" inIndonesia, said Alex Thiermann, an expert at the World Organization for Animal Health. "The situation needs to be investigated to see what is the exact reason for the continuation of the poultry and the human cases" he added.

The latest to step into the international fight against Indonesia’s deteriorating situation is its neighbor Singapore which had pledged to work jointly with Indonesia to stop the proliferation of the virus. The genesis of this united approach came last year in November when Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at last year’s APEC summit in Busan South Korea. Both state leaders have agreed to launch a three year joint project to stop the spread of bird flu in Indonesia. Since then, Singapore medical detachments have chosen and visited Tangerang, a surrounding area of Jakarta, to assess the situation behind the outbreak. Tangerang will be the site of this pilot project and its local authorities have pledged to provide manpower and logistical support to the Singaporean team.     

Amongst the factor for choosing Tangerang is the fact that it is densely populated with 1.5 million people living close to poultry. The pilot project has several aims. They include protecting high risk groups from infection, instituting integrated surveillance of the area and training as well as building up the capacity of medical workers and lab technicians. In the long run, it aims to be a viable model to be replicated for other areas in Indonesia. The project has a budget of US$4.5 million, much of it coming from Singapore with contributions from Indonesia and other participating agencies. Their greatest challenge remains in eradicating the virus in the sprawling archipelago of about 17,000 islands and 220 million people. Indonesia now has the ominous label of the “bird flu time bomb” due to its failure to control the highly-affected sites.

Sources:

S’pore, Jakarta launching the bird flu plan (Straits Times, 17 April 2006)

Growing number of bird flu cases troubles animal health experts (Jakarta Post, 15 April 2006)

Indonesia girl died last year from bird flu-ministry (Reuters, 4 April 2006)