As Flu Pandemic Declared Leaders Must Focus on Poor Countries to Avert Bleaker
Aid Agency Commends WHO's Chan for Highlighting Developing World's Needs Amid
H1N1 Flu Threat
As the World Health Organization today raised the pandemic alert for Influenza A (H1N1) to its
highest level, humanitarian specialists are calling on governments and health authorities globally
to strengthen poor communities' access to primary health care and protect the most at risk.
Impoverished people in developing countries are especially vulnerable to outbreaks given the
prevalence of existing pandemics and weak health systems, warns World Vision, a Christian
humanitarian organization working in 100 countries. The aid group's health and policy specialists
are encouraging authorities and staff to remain vigilant as the number of confirmed cases and
deaths continue to increase and spread to regions with deeper poverty levels, including the
African continent and Central America.
"With limited access to health services, extreme poverty, high malnutrition rates, and the slower-
burning pandemics of HIV & AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria already stretching society's coping
mechanisms, the poor are more at risk than the general population," said Stefan Germann, World
Vision International's Geneva-based director for global health partnerships.
"Efforts to mitigate this pandemic should pay particular attention to this and work quickly to
boost community-level health care essential to avoiding extremely high mortality rates, with or
without a flu pandemic," Germann said.
Even providing vaccines to poor countries will have limited benefit unless local health access is
strengthened and systems in place to immunize, monitor and treat people.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan's announcement today points out that, "Although the
pandemic appears to have moderate severity in comparatively well-off countries, it is prudent to
anticipate a bleaker picture as the virus spreads to areas with limited resources, poor health care,