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Annan names coordinator to prepare UN in case of human outbreak of bird flu

Annan names coordinator to prepare UN in case of human outbreak of bird flu

Ms. Imelda Henkin
Aiming to shore up contingency plans for the operation of United Nations offices in New York in case of an international outbreak of bird flu among humans, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today named Imelda Henkin of the Netherlands as the world body’s new Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Coordinator.

Ms. Henkin comes to the job from the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) where she recently served as the Deputy Executive Director for Management, overseeing a range of operations, including in the areas of emergency response and staff safety.

In her new capacity, she will be responsible for coordinating the pandemic influenza planning and preparedness activities of all New York-based United Nations organizations.

Ms. Henkin will work closely with the main UN point man on the bird flu threat, Dr. David Nabarro, the UN System Influenza Coordinator.

Although there have been scores of millions of deaths among birds worldwide, there have so far just over 200 human cases of bird flu, a little more than half of them fatal, since the current outbreak started in South East Asia in December, 2003, ascribed to contact with infected birds. But experts fear the H5N1 virus could mutate, gaining the ability to pass from person to person and in a worst case scenario unleashing a deadly human pandemic.