Published: Wednesday 15 September 2004

Another 5 million families will benefit from the Antyodaya Anna Yojana, a government of India endeavour to supply highly subsidised foodgrains to those living below the poverty line. At present, 15 million families are covered under the programme. The recent development is in line with the common minimum programme of the ruling alliance. The food ministry has sent a communication to all states to identify beneficiaries and issue distinctive ration cards to them. Further allocation of foodgrains will be made after this work is completed.

The bird flu menace has returned in Asia. Chez Hualan, the chief of the China National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory, announced the discovery of a lethal strain of avian flu among pigs at several farms in China. Vietnam too has confirmed the deaths of three people from bird flu. Preliminary tests have shown the presence of the H5N1 strain of bird flu in one of the victims. It is the only strain known to cause the illness in humans. Meanwhile, in South Africa, the government has begun the slaughter of 6,000 ostriches in an effort to check bird flu. Some 2,000 birds have already died in Eastern Cape province. Exports of ostrich meat and other poultry have been suspended.

Vietnam marked its first Agent Orange Day to call for greater local and international help for some 4.8 million local people exposed to the defoliant sprayed by US forces. The Hanoi Union of Friendship Organization held a meeting in the capital of Hanoi and launched a fund raising campaign. Vietnam's Fund for Victims Agent Orange/Dioxin paid a visit to children affected by the defoliant in the city's Thanh Xuan district.

Cambodian sex workers hailed a decision by Prime Minister Hun Sen to halt a proposed Bill Gates-funded HIV human vaccine trial. Hun Sen called off the plans to test Tenofovir in Asia's worst HIV-affected nation because of potential side effects and human rights issues. The drug is used to treat HIV patients but the study was attempting to discover if it could reduce the risk of HIV among uninfected but sexually active adults.

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