Namibia’s 50-year old dream of declaring itself free from foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) seems to be shattered for now, as the outbreak in May this year is proving much tougher to contain than previously anticipated.
While Namibia is winning the battle against the disease in the Northern Communal Areas, where it erupted on May 11 at two locations in Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions, the battle rages on after another suspected outbreak at Malundu and Shaile in Linyanti constituency, 60 km west of Katima Mulilo last week.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Abraham Nehemia, says 39 cattle from eight kraals were showing signs of the disease and the outbreak was discovered after a farmer reported suspected FMD in his kraal at Malundu.
“A full investigation has since been launched and appropriate samples have been collected for laboratory confirmation,” Nehemia says.
A temporary but complete ban of all susceptible livestock movements within and into Zambezi has been imposed with immediate effect. A containment zone has been established with a radius of 30 km around Malundu and Shaile and roadblocks have been set up.
Deputy chief-director of the Directorate of Veterinary Services, Dr John Shoopala says the work of DVS is made more difficult by the fact that wild buffalo roam freely in Botswana close to the area where the suspected latest outbreak took place.
“Botswana has a constant battle with FMD, because of their free-roaming buffalo and these animals can easily cross over into Namibia. This compounds our problem as buffalo are the main carriers of FMD along the Chobe River,” he says.
Shoopala admits this year’s outbreaks will have a serious effect on Namibia’s efforts of declaring the country FMD free. DVS and all role players in the meat industry were until recently optimistic that Namibia could gain that status soon.
But, this year’s outbreaks translate into a huge setback, as it could take up to two years for the Animal Health Organisation to recognize Namibia’s FMD free status.
“We have the disease under control in the NCAs, but these newly reported cases are of great concern as it halts all our hard work of almost 50 years,” lamented Shoopala.
Chief veterinary officer of DVS, Dr Milton Maseke praised the Namibian livestock industry, all role players and more than 850 government officials and 450 casual workers for halting the worst outbreak of FMD in its tracks in a relative short time in the NCAs.
“DVS has almost two-thirds of its total workforce of 1,500 people in the field fighting day and night to eradicate the disease and repair the Veterinary Corridor Fence. They work under extreme conditions and sometimes in isolation,” he told New Era.
“Therefore, we appreciate the donation of packets of 500 each of various food supplements from Meatco, Namib Mills, Bokomo, Agra and Windhoek Livestock Auctioneers to secure an everyday meal for these gallant troops in the field. These workers will receive regular food supplements for as long as they have to combat the disease,” he said.
Government reacted swiftly after the first outbreaks, with Cabinet approving N$208 million to eradicate the disease once and for all. Some N$52 million of this amount will be spent over the next two financial years to erect the fence.
All livestock movement has been stopped and the vaccination of some 1.4 million cattle is going ahead full steam.
Thirty-eight temporary roadblocks to monitor and enforce animal and commodity movement control and decontamination of vehicles and footwear are in operation throughout the NCAs and at permanent veterinary checkpoints along the Veterinary Corridor Fence.
Government will spend about N$119 million on the vaccination of some 1.4 million head of cattle against FMD. The vaccination campaign is being conducted by 48 teams and the first round is expected to be completed by the end of June.