Chief veterinary officer of the Directorate of Veterinary Services (DVS) Dr Milton Maseke yesterday assured Namibians that the country is still foot-and-mouth disease free.
He was reacting to media reports circulating about a new outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in Ohangwena Region, calling such claims false and devoid of any truth.
At an urgent media briefing yesterday, Maseke dismissed the claims of Governor Usko Nghaamwa, who told Nampa that the re-appearance of the disease was detected in Okongo Constituency over the past few days.
Nghaamwa drew this conclusion after a series of information-sharing meetings were held by State veterinarians with farmers, cattle herders and villages as part of an ongoing campaign to ensure the dreaded disease does not spread south from Angola.
Governor Nghaamwa claimed the disease was present in animals in the villages of Oshikome, Ombongola, Okakango, kaShapwa, Okanyandi West, Ohiki, Omufimba, Ondamayomunghete, Ombabi, Okalupalelona and Oshishogolo.
Maseke says the misunderstanding stems from announcements made by DVS officials during such community meetings along the Namibian/Angolan border that were convened to discuss the importance of reporting cross-border movement of livestock and to train farmers in the recognition of FMD symptoms.
“The information was misconstrued and I want to categorically state that no new cases of FMD have been confirmed in those areas, or anywhere else in the country. Namibia is FMD-free,” he stressed.
He, however, expressed concern over the movement of animals between the two countries, saying DVS is busy with an intensive vaccination process to ensure all animals in Namibia are vaccinated, as such animals have the ability to fight FMD if they come into contact with animals from Angola, where a recent outbreak of FMD has raised concerns.
It also transpired that Angola’s vaccination campaigns have not been as successful as Namibia’s after last year’s outbreak in the Ohangwena and Kavango West regions.
He said officials of the Directorate of Veterinary Services (DVS) are continuing with surveillance activities along the border between Namibia and Angola because of the high risk for re-incursion of potentially FMD infected animals from neighbouring countries.
“Our increased vigilance involves strategic vaccination against FMD in the Ohangwena and Kavango West regions, patrols along the border and educational sessions in conjunction with the police,” he noted.
Maseke says an international consultation process with all stakeholders is now in progress to reach consensus on the erection of a permanent fence between Namibia and Angola. This process will decide who erects and pays for the fence, who maintains it and when work on it will start.
He reiterated that no new case of the disease have been confirmed since the main closure of the disease on January 19 after two FMD outbreaks were reported in May last year in Ohangwena, Oshikoto and Omusati regions.
Swift action by the ministry of agriculture and various role players in the private sector resulted in the outbreak being halted by June last year. Government spent some N$180 million on the vaccination exercise. The Northern Communal Areas were thus declared FMD free on January 22 this year.
Maseke yesterday urged the public to remain vigilant and report cross-border livestock movement to the nearest DVS office. “The farmers in the previously affected areas are also requested to bring all their animals for FMD vaccination if and when vaccination days are announced,” he concluded.