Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
FOOD and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has pledged to continue supporting Zimbabwe in its fight to curb livestock diseases outbreaks.
FAO southern Africa regional co-ordinator Dr Chimimba David Phiri said the organisation was likely to continue assisting the Government in its fight against animal disease outbreak depending on the availability of resources.
“Particularly through the livelihoods and livestock production programme and FAOs own money we have been supporting Government in buying vaccines and then they vaccinate the animals against Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), anthrax, rabies and so on. Resources permitting, we will continue to do so in future,” said Dr Phiri.
FAO started supporting Zimbabwe to control FMD in 2004 through funding from the European Union channelling millions of dollars towards vaccination programmes. Before the advent of FMD outbreak in Zimbabwe in 2001 the country used to export its beef to Europe.
Dr Phiri also said FAO was supporting the Government to contain further outbreaks of the highly-pathogenic H5N8 bird flu virus following an outbreak at one of the country’s leading poultry breeding companies, Irvine’s Zimbabwe in June.
“Regarding the outbreak that has happened in Zimbabwe on one farm, the Government has requested that we support them. We actually visited the site of the outbreak and we have provided a possible guideline of what the Government and the farm can do to make sure they contain the disease,” said Dr Phiri.
He said following another outbreak in South Africa FAO organised an emergency meeting two weeks ago to sensitise Southern African Development Community (Sadc) member countries on the disease.
“We went further, because the outbreak has happened in South Africa, to organise a regional meeting last week (two weeks ago) with all countries of Sadc to sensitise them to the fact that this is a disease that does not know any boundaries, it may be in Zimbabwe now or South Africa but it could easily pass on to other countries. So it is very important that those countries get ready in case it happens, even if it does not happen they should have surveillance plans in place. So we would like to see this resolved in the region using a region approach instead of a country,” Dr Phiri.
Bird flu, also called avian influenza, is a viral infection that can infect not only birds, but also humans and other animals. Most forms of the virus are restricted to birds. H5N1 is the most common form of bird flu. It’s deadly to birds and can easily affect humans and other animals that come in contact with a carrier. According to the World Health Organization, H5N1 was first discovered in humans in 1997 and has killed nearly 60 percent of those infected.
Currently, the virus is not known to spread via human-to-human contact. Still, some experts worry that H5N1 may pose a risk of becoming a pandemic threat to humans.