U.N. Round-Up:

The human death toll from bird flu has now passed 100, following the confirmation of five new fatal cases in Azerbaijan, possibly as a result of collecting feathers from dead swans, the UN health agency reported. Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) strengthened its field team in Azerbaijan to include experts in clinical management and infection control and additional senior epidemiologists to fight the H5N1 virus, which experts fear could mutate into a potentially devastating and lethal human pandemic. As of March 21 there have been 184 human cases, 103 of them fatal, in the two-year-old outbreak, with almost all infections caused by very close contact with sick or dead birds.

Women and girls are far more vulnerable to AIDS than men and need their own UN agency to defend them, just as UNICEF protects young people, said Stephen Lewis, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s special envoy for AIDS in Africa. “What has happened to women is such a gross and palpable violation of human rights that the funding must be found,” he said. “We must right the wrong.” Lewis, just back from a trip to Lesotho and Swaziland in southern Africa, said 56 percent of pregnant women between 25 and 29 years old in Swaziland were infected with HIV, according to a recent government survey.

In an effort to boost the development of preventative systems for natural disasters, Former US President Bill Clinton, in his role as UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, will address the International Early Warning Congress in Bonn, Germany next week. In his remarks to the Congress, which is hosted by the German Government in coordination with the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Clinton is expected to call for an international commitment to risk reduction, and an accelerated shift toward a culture of prevention.

IMF, World Bank & IFI Round-Up:

An aid program to build better trade policy and to overcome supply constraints for developing countries is one of the most important results of the recent Hong Kong ministerial conference of the WTO, said UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi at the March 21 opening of the Aid for Trade meeting in Geneva. “I must emphasize that aid for trade is not a panacea to all trade-related problems facing developing countries,” said Supachai Panitchpakdi, stressing that it did not replace the needed reforms of the international trade system being negotiated through the Doha Round of WTO talks. “However, if the initiative is adequately designed, managed and implemented, it can make a significant difference in enabling developing countries to really use trade and trade liberalization as an engine of development and poverty reduction.”

The World Bank’s board is likely to approve a debt relief proposal for 18 poor countries on March 28 despite haggling among member nations over how to fully compensate the development lender. Board officials told Reuters that many Bank donor countries had make firm commitments to cover the costs to the World Bank’s low-interest lending arm, the International Development Association (IDA), for the first 10 years of the debt relief plan. But future funding to cover the full 40 years of the debt relief was less clear. The G-8 countries agreed in June to a plan that would write off the debts of the 18 countries owed to the World Bank, the IMF and African Development Bank. Only France has passed legislation to fund its share of the debt relief, creating some uncertainty and unease about the commitments of the other G8 member countries.

The East African (Kenya) reports that worsening rates of childhood malnutrition in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda will cause long-lasting damage to all three countries’ economies, a new World Bank study suggests. Drought in Kenya, war in Uganda and acute poverty in Tanzania are increasing the already high prevalence of underweight children throughout East Africa, government officials and aid agencies say. The World Bank report, based on year-old data, estimates that 22 percent of Kenyans under the age of five are malnourished, along with 23 percent of young Ugandans and nearly one-third of Tanzanian children.

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