United Front

DHAKA, April 27, 2006 (AFP) – Health ministers from seven South Asian nations have decided to develop a common strategy to combat bird-flu in the region, a statement said Thursday. The health ministers said after their meeting in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka Wednesday that “an impending pandemic influenza” posed a threat to the region’s 1.40 billion people.

The ministers have decided to “develop influenza preparedness strategy covering both animal and human health,” the statement said.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) groups Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Among the SAARC nations, only India and Pakistan have reported bird flu cases in the past two months while the remaining give countries were on “highest alert” to safeguard their poultry industry. SAARC was founded in 1985 to boost regional cooperation but has made few achievements to show mainly due to tensions between its two largest members, India and Pakistan.