Thursday, June 4, 2009

World bank fast tracks $500 million for H1N1

"WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--The World Bank approved Tuesday a $500 million fast-track facility to help countries control the fast-spreading swine flu, known as influenza A/H1N1.

The money will top up the World Bank's existing $500 million credit line set up in 2006 for countries coping with the avian flu.

Low- and middle-income countries can access the financing to pay for drugs, medical equipment, hospital care, human and livestock health surveillance, and offset the economic and social costs associated with pandemic flu, the bank said in a release.

"This is a particularly bad time for a pandemic to occur given that developing countries are more vulnerable now because of the compounded effects of the food, fuel and financial crises," said Jeff Gutman, the World Bank's vice president for operations, in a statement.

Sixty-two countries had reported 17,410 cases of swine flu, including 115 deaths, as of Monday, according to the World Health Organization. Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's acting assistant director-general for health security and environment, said Tuesday the agency is moving closer to setting the highest level of pandemic alert, Phase 6."

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