PACIFIC ISLANDS GET U.S. BIOTERRORISM FIGHT GRANTS

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By John Ravelo

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (April 1, 2002 - Saipan Tribune/PINA Nius Online)---The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has allotted some $3 million to American-linked Pacific islands in the form of  bioterrorism preparedness grants.

Those eligible for assistance are American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Freely Associated States – the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau.

"It’s a national program involving over $900 million for fiscal year 2002," said Dr. James Hofschneider, acting secretary of the Northern Mariana Islands Department of Public Health.

Of the $3 million, part of America's campaign against terrorism, $800,000 has already been committed to Guam, Hofschneider said.

"The $2.2 million of the CDC initial allotment is going to go to the rest of the U.S. flag territories and associated states," he said.

"That will be divided based on population. But you have to apply for it, and PIHOA [Pacific Island Health Officers Association] is helping us apply as a region," he said.

The funds will be used to improve networking and surveillance of diseases, enhance laboratory capability and train personnel.

The Pacific Island Health Officers Association is also looking at the creation of a regional laboratory, according to Hofschneider.

"This bioterrorism money is not just going to help us prepare for bioterrorism and other disasters," he said. "If we get the money, we can improve communication ability [among] the different islands."

Hofschneider is optimistic that the Northern Marianas will get a big slice of the fund. This is since it ranks next to Guam and the Federated States of Micronesia in terms of population.

Hofschneider also said that the department is looking at other ways to upgrade its bioterrorism response capability through other federal grants.

One of them is the Hospital Bioterrorism Preparedness Program, under the Human Resource Service Administration.

"We’re trying to tap into that. We already have submitted our application," he said.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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