ROME – The United States Agency for International Development gave $20 million to combat the spread of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza and emerging pandemic disease threats.

The funding will support an ongoing partnership between the US and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. FAO said the funds will help strengthen preparedness and response to H5N1 in Southeast Asia and support laboratory and surveillance in hotspot areas. Most of the funds will go to support work in Bangladesh, China, Indonesia and Viet Nam, according to FAO. These countries continue to experience outbreaks of H5N1 HPAI in poultry and in humans which has resulted in fatalities.

“The US government has been key in generating international support to combat avian influenza and to reduce the chances for a human pandemic by assisting FAO and others to address the threat in animals before it spills over into humans,” said Juan Lubroth, FAO chief veterinary officer. “Such support for basic prevention measures is rare, yet most sensible and cost effective.”

Cambodia, Lao PDR, Nepal and Myanmar will also receive funding for regional coordination to combat avian influenza and to support surveillance and prevention activities.

"USAID is pleased to continue its collaboration with FAO," said Dennis Carroll, director of USAID's Avian Influenza and Other Emerging Threats Unit. "FAO has proven to be a highly effective and innovative leader in responding to the threat posed by emerging zoonotic diseases. As a prime mover in the promotion of One Health FAO continues to be instrumental in demonstrating the central importance of collaborative partnerships across the sectoral domains of environment, animal health and human health.

"Through the partnership between USAID and FAO we look forward to being able to continue to provide a broad range of technical, operational and commodity support to those countries most vulnerable to the threat of zoonotic diseases," he said.