Govt declares national disaster following anthrax, FMD outbreaks

Government has declared current anthrax as well as foot and mouth outbreaks in some parts of the country a national disaster.

The veterinary services department has banned the sale and slaughter of cattle in five districts in Masvingo province in an effort to contain the outbreaks.

Relevant government departments are facing a severe manpower shortage and do not have sufficient funds to fight the diseases, it also emerged.

"We are trying to make sure that the problem is dealt with once and for all. We declared the outbreaks a national disaster to ensure timely funding," Agriculture minister, Joseph Made, said.

"The veterinary department had been heavily affected by underfunding and manpower shortages so the availability of funds will ensure that vaccines and manpower are adequately mobilised,” he added.

Masvingo provincial veterinary officer, Enerst Dzimwasha, declined to comment on the new development.

The affected districts include Mwenezi, Chiredzi, Zaka , Chivi ,and Masvingo, with Gutu and Bikita being declared safe as of last week. Public cattle auction sales have been banned.

The slaughter of cattle even for ceremonies such as weddings and funerals has also been suspended amid concerns from villagers.

Dzimwasha last week confirmed the outbreak but refused to give details as to how many cattle have died so far.

“We are currently fighting these two cattle diseases and our men are on the ground to ensure that all the cattle in the affected areas are vaccinated,” said Dzimwasha.

Veterinary services sources said at least 1,000 cattle succumbed to the disease in less than a month.

“Our records indicate that over 1,000 cattle have died in less than a month,” said the source.

“The figure of those that have died could be much higher as reports from the affected districts are still coming in on a daily basis,” added the source.

Villagers in the affected areas have complained bitterly over the order not to slay cattle and called on the veterinary department to individually examine beats meant for slaughter.

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