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UN Urges Release of Funds to Help Indonesia Fight Bird Flu

The United Nations official in charge of the fight against bird flu has urged donor nations to release funds to Indonesia because the country has made progress in combating the disease.

The U.N. coordinator for bird flu, David Nabarro, told a news conference in Jakarta Friday he was disappointed Indonesia had not received the funds needed for its fight against the H5N1 virus.

"I am rustrated that we still have not been able to get to Indonesia the resources that you need to enable you to fight against bird flu with all the energy that is necessary," he said.

Nabarro called on the international community to release more funds to help Indonesia fight avian influenza.

Indonesia has attracted criticism for not doing enough to combat the disease. When it reduced its own budget allocation for bird flu programs, the World Bank and other donors demanded it reverse the decision. Donors have also asked Jakarta for a detailed plan of how it intends to spend bird flu aid.

Nabarro said Friday that Indonesian officials had assured him they would increase the annual budget allocation for bird flu campaigns.

The Indonesian government did not specify the new amount, but the welfare minister said Friday funds earmarked for poverty and disaster relief could be diverted toward the effort.

Nabarro also said Indonesia's action plan on bird flu should be in place within three months.

Nabarro says he will use the new commitment as leverage to convince international donors that the country is serious about containing bird flu.

"And so we reached an agreement that there would be the production of a detailed checklist of new actions that will be undertaken, together with the financial provision, that we would in addition seek some influx of donor resources to back it," he said.

But Nabarro warned that while the country has made small gains in its battle against the virus, it still has a long way to go.

Indonesia had previously allocated about $50 million to fight the disease, but the United Nations says the country needs at least $250 million.

Bird flu has killed 144 people worldwide. Most deaths can be traced to contact with sick birds but there are fears the H5N1 virus could mutate into a form more easily transmissible between people.

Indonesia last week confirmed its 49th human death from the H5N1 virus. The death toll is the highest in the world.