The world's rich nations were too slow in responding to the first cases of bird flu, contributing a mere 36 million U.S. dollars to the fight against the disease, said the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) here Thursday.
There were estimates that some 1.9 billion dollars were needed, but rich nations only reacted when the disease had already reached Russia, said FAO chief Jacques Diouf. Bird flu could have been halted if developed nations had intervened when the first cases occurred in southeastern Asia.
"Although our technical staff are working in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and seven other countries in the region, it has already been too late," he said.
The developed world was more interested in halting a possible human epidemic than an animal epidemic, which had already shown its potential to spread far and wide and had affected developing countries with scarce resources.
He also hoped the Madrid bird flu conference planned for July 14 and 15 would help make the world aware of the importance of preserving species threatened by the virus.
Diouf is in Spain this Friday and Saturday to help with preparations for the July meeting.
Bird flu has killed more than 100 people world-wide since the H5N1 strain of the disease reappeared. The bulk of the deaths have been in Asia.