Thu, 12 Feb 2004

Govt lacks money for bird flu campaign

Eva C. Komandjaja and Indra Harsaputra, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Surabaya

The government admitted on Wednesday it could not organize a public campaign to contain the spread of bird flu due to a lack of funds.

Director General of Communicable Diseases at the Ministry of Health Umar Fahmi told The Jakarta Post most of the budget allocated to control the outbreak had been spent on educating poultry farmers and workers.

"We do not have any fund to print posters or leaflets as we did during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak. Perhaps because so far, there have been no cases of bird flu in humans, the government does not consider this campaign important," he said.

However, he said the ministry had already distributed leaflets to Indonesians arriving from their haj pilgrimage, asking them to keep away from poultry for at least one month.

"Most of them are prone to influenza and it would be easy for them to be infected with bird flu," Umar said.

He said the ministry was seeking funds from other sources, including a loan from the Coordinating Ministry of People's Welfare.

"Currently, we can only campaign through the media. As for people living in isolated areas, it will be difficult and expensive to reach them," said Umar.

Meanwhile, World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Indonesia, George Peterson, told the Post the organization did not have any plans to start a campaign to educate public on bird flu.

He said WHO would provide with guidelines for the Indonesian government if it would organize a public campaign against bird flu.

Separately, chairman of the Indonesian Poultry Farmers Association (PPUI), Paul Iskandar said the organization would step up education campaign on bird flu for the public, especially poultry farmers in remote areas in East Java.