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Bird Flu, Rice, and Gas Guzzling

Author: Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health
April 28, 2008
Huffington Post


Moshiur Rahman, like so many businessmen today, is a weary fellow, striving to keep his head above the troubled economic waters of our time. But as the obviously exhausted Rahman strives to keep his several companies afloat in Dhaka, Bangladesh, he faces an emerging confluence of crises: bird flu, climate change, rising food process and formidable energy costs. Its all poor Rahman can do to keep the petitioners from his office door, begging for help, credit or crisis management.

Rahman doused his eyes with drops to wash away the Dhaka dust as he listed his numerous responsibilities in the landscape of impoverished Bangladesh’s business world. Chief among them are several poultry and egg producer associations he heads, aimed at keeping a chicken in every Bengali pot, or something like that.

The extremely virulent H5N1 avian flu virus hit Bangladesh in 2006, and has now swept over the nation, becoming entrenched in every district and farm of the land. It has likewise spread the length of the great Ganges region, plaguing poultry across eastern India and Pakistan, and driving the price of eggs and protein to levels never previously seen in the region, even in times of war. The nation of Bhutan, which gets al of its chicken and dairy products from India, has ceased importation because of bird flu. A colleague who was just there tells me a single egg costs 25 cents, if one can be found - a hefty price for protein in a country where average rural household income is merely 50 cents a day.

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