WINDHOEK – Namibia envisages eliminating foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and lung sickness from the Northern Communal Areas (NCAs) by 2014, if all works according to plan.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, in conjunction with all stakeholders in the farming and meat industries are working towards expanding Namibia’s FMD-free zone to include the NCAs, excluding the Caprivi Region for the time being.
“This will result in our farmers in those areas enjoying wider marketing opportunities for their livestock and livestock products, as is already the case in areas south of the Veterinary Cordon Fence,” the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa, said during the opening of a stakeholder workshop on the FMD Contingency Plan, yesterday.
In a speech read on his behalf, Mutorwa said the contingency plan must be seen in the context of the overall animal disease surveillance and response strategy for the country.
“A contingency plan can be defined as an organised and coordinated set of steps to be taken if an emergency strikes, be it a fire, flood, animal or human disease outbreak,” Mutorwa said.
The United States of America-funded Millennium Challenge Account Namibia (MCA-N) and the agriculture ministry are funding a two-year project in which the country will be investigating and documenting strategic choices, develop a road map and prepare action plans that will be used to achieve FMD and lung sickness-free areas in most parts of the NCAs. So far tremendous progress has been recorded, according to Mutorwa.
“With the assistance from the MCA-Namibia, we have managed to tag and register over 60 percent of the livestock in the NCAs,” the minister said.
In addition, the government is also constructing new veterinary infrastructure, which includes veterinary clinics, laboratories, staff houses and checkpoints at ports of entry around the country.
Mutorwa urged participants to not only understand how the document will be used, but also to ontribute their own ideas on how to make the plan effective during an FMD emergency.
“We expect you to look at ways in which you can contribute both materially and financially before, and in response to, outbreaks or those situations that are likely to precipitate an outbreak,” the minister added.
Much of Africa today is unable to benefit from the growing world trade in animal and animal products because of the scourge of FMD.
Presently, only Namibia and a few other countries benefit from lucrative world markets for animals and animal products from their FMD-free zones.
FMD is a highly contagious acute viral infection, almost exclusively among domestic and wild ruminants and pigs. It is characterised in livestock by high morbidity, low mortality (except in young animals) and by vesicles and erosions in the mucosa of the mouth and skin of the inter-digital spaces and coronary bands.
Cattle and African buffalo are the usual maintenance hosts for FMD in Africa; African buffalo are currently thought to carry only the SAT serotype.
With this exception, wildlife hosts do not seem to be able to maintain FMD viruses, and are usually infected by contact with domesticated livestock
Illegal and uncontrolled livestock movements are important risk factors in the spread of the disease among the livestock population.
FMD is a regular occurrence, especially in the Caprivi Region, which borders countries such as Zambia and Angola.
The FMD-free zone is separated from South Africa and Botswana, which border it by physical fences. Both countries also have zoning for FMD and are therefore perceived to pose minimal risk to Namibia.