Jun 5, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – Indonesia’s health minister said today the government has stopped the practice of promptly notifying global health officials each time it confirms a human H5N1 avian influenza case or death, a move some say will likely hamper efforts to monitor the world’s pandemic risk level.Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari today confirmed that a 15-year-old girl from Jakarta tested positive for H5N1 avian influenza on May 13 and died the next day, according to a report from the Associated Press (AP). Indonesia’s National Committee for Avian Influenza Control and Pandemic Influenza had previously listed the case as confirmed on its Web site, but the information is apparently no longer listed.The WHO, which typically confirms cases when it receives notifications from health ministries or test results from its collaborating laboratories, has not yet confirmed Indonesia’s most recent case and has not commented on Supari’s decision to stop sending out H5N1 case notifications. The WHO’s last confirmed an Indonesian H5N1 case, in a 3-year old boy who died on Apr 23, on Apr 30.Supari told the AP that the health ministry would not send out H5N1 case confirmations until after they have been reported in the media. However, Reuters reported today that the ministry will announce the death toll from the H5N1 virus only every 6 months.”How does it help us to announce these deaths?” Supari told the AP. “We want to focus now on positive steps and achievements made by the government in fighting bird flu.”She told Reuters that announcements of H5N1 deaths are sometimes misunderstood. “It’s OK not to announce it. Sometimes they only give hurtful comments instead of helping,” she said without further explanation.Indonesia has been hit hardest of any country by the H5N1 virus. According to the WHO’s most recent count, the country has had 133 cases and 108 deaths.The country’s refusal to share timely reports of human H5N1 cases is the latest in a series of controversies that began when Indonesia stopped sharing its H5N1 isolates in early 2007 to protest what it views as a lack of access to affordable H5N1 therapies and vaccines. The WHO has held several meetings to resolve the virus sharing issues, but so far no agreements have been reached.Sharon Sanders, editor-in-chief of FluTrackers, a well-known Web message board that focuses on avian flu developments, told CIDRAP News that Indonesia’s decision to delay H5N1 notifications will obscure what is happening there, which negatively affects the world’s ability to prepare for a pandemic.She said Indonesia’s news blackout would likely have the opposite effect from what the government apparently intends. “Now, there will be intense speculation and generation of rumors surrounding suspicious deaths that have similar symptoms to H5N1 infections,” Sanders said. “False rumors of an H5N1 outbreak have the potential to be even more economically devastating than a government-confirmed outbreak.”Established in early 2006, FluTrackers monitors avian flu developments in several languages from several sources and hosts international discussion forums and resource lists.Sanders said media reports coming out of Indonesia are generally reliable, but have some drawbacks. “In many instances, reported suspicious human cases have little or no follow up, so we are left with gaps in our total picture,” she said.Indonesia’s avian flu news blackout might increase traffic to online avian flu communities, such as FluTrackers and FluWiki, because they translate and analyze Indonesian newspaper reports, blogs, newscasts, and other sources, Sanders said.”FluTrackers will continue to publish what we can; however, we rely on the local sources in Indonesia,” she said. “Since the national government is imposing restrictions on when they confirm human deaths, we are watching for other restrictions such as suppression of the local news media to develop.”
She said: “The eat, drink, festival gives small businesses the platform to reach other people. A lot of these businesses do not have physical structures but they are running them from their homes, sometimes they are online businesses.“But at this event, customers can interact with the business owners, taste what is on offer and get to meet new people. So, this festival is a platform for small businesses in the food and drink industry to expand and also do better for their businesses.“For a lot of businesses, one of the major things they need is access to markets and that is what the festival is doing because if you don’t have customers, you don’t have the business and your location doesn’t matter.”According to her, the bank can finance a small business whether it has a physical structure or not. She added “they can get financing and we also provide financial advisory services.“This event helps us to reach out to these businesses and grow with them. Our target is that you increase your revenue and you form a working relationship with us so that we can grow together.”She explained that participation in the festival affords the bank the opportunity to assess the requirements of businesses in order to properly support them, adding that the bank’s intervention has positive implications for both SMEs and the economy in general.She noted that the economy grows when businesses make money, adding that it is equally true that when businesses don’t make money, the economy does not grow. She said the bank has a duty to ensure that the businesses make money.She said the bank plans to take the festival beyond Lagos and Abuja to other parts of the country to give opportunities to other fledgling businesses in need of the bank’s support to grow. She said the bank’s support programmes for SMEs cut across various sectors of the economy. The event was organised by the Eat.Drink.Festival team and sponsored by Sterling Bank.Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegram Sterling Bank Plc has reiterated its commitment to the empowerment of small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs), particularly those in the food sector, so that they can further exploit the potential in the industry and contribute to the development of Nigeria.Marketing Manager, Specialised Products, Sterling Bank, Daphne Akatugba who disclosed this at the sixth edition of the Eat Drink Festival in Abuja recently said the bank plans to work with SMEs in their early stages of growth by giving financial advisory and support for growth.Akatugba said the bank believes that by working with the SMEs at the developing stage, they (the SMEs) will continue to partner with the bank when they eventually become big business concerns.