via Foot and Mouth needs urgent action – The Zimbabwean 24 September 2015 by Editor
The veterinary department in July described the current outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) as a crisis.
There is need for government and other stakeholders to act decisively to avert the dire consequences that this highly contagious disease brings with it.
The prevailing outbreak is suspected to have emerged when local cattle came into contact with buffalo and spread when cattle came in contact with each other as they migrated to search for water and pastures affected by the 2014-15 drought. Areas affected included Masvingo and southern parts of the country where cattle have been quarantined as a way of mitigating the impact of FMD.
Some steps have already been taken by the relevant authorities. These interventions including rolling out at least 450,000 doses of vaccine to different parts of the country, with some 70,000 having been dispatched to Matabeleland South province, bordering South Africa and Botswana. Encouragingly, these two neighbouring countries have joined hands with the Zimbabwean authorities to map out ways of fighting the disease.
However, we are concerned that, despite the efforts, FMD continues to spread and is causing much havoc. According to the latest report by the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ), the disease has caused a shortage of beef on the market. Consequently, beef prices have gone up. In turn, this has pushed up the consumer basket for the average family.
This is disturbing considering that the majority of Zimbabweans are currently struggling to make ends meet in the wake of rising unemployment and an imploding economy. The FMD outbreak has other macro-economic implications.
For instance, beef exports will suffer as external markets shun Zimbabwe, thereby depriving the country of much-needed foreign currency and undermining capacity utilisation in that sector. It means the cattle industry, which has just begun to rebound after the decimation that resulted from the theft and destruction of commercial farms under the land “reform” programme, will slide backwards.
That is why we insist on more urgent measures to ensure that the disease is controlled. Government, through the agriculture ministry and other concerned departments, must roll out an intensive awareness campaign targeting all types of farmers on what they must do to reduce the spread of the disease.
More money must be mobilised towards fighting FMD, while it must be ensured all carriers of the disease are controlled and, if necessary, put down. Particular attention must be given to small-holder farmers who control a significant amount of the national herd, but lack the resources and information on appropriate interventions necessary to control the disease.