Health officials from seven African countries are discussing a response to swine flu at a conference in Ethiopia, organisers said on Wednesday. The conference, involving Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania, was planned six months ago to talk about Africa’s poor response to pandemics.

swine-flu“It’s really fortuitous that this is going on in the context of an international emergency,” Gregory Pappas, pandemic coordinator for U.S. charity Interaction, told Reuters. “Most African countries haven’t done extensive planning, and this meeting is about helping those countries.”

No cases have been reported on the continent. Germany and Austria became the eighth and ninth countries to confirm cases of the virus on Wednesday and the United States reported the first death outside Mexico.

Health experts have expressed concern about sub-Saharan Africa’s capacity to deal with a pandemic, given the poor state of health infrastructure on the world’s neediest continent. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appealed for assistance for poorer countries vulnerable to the crisis which may need drugs, diagnostic tools and other help.


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