Broke govt fails to contain foot-and-mouth

The cash-strapped government has failed to contain the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak that is now claiming livestock of desperate villagers in Gokwe South.

Emergency assistance from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation has come to an end.
Emergency assistance from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation has come to an end.

The outbreak was reported to the authorities three weeks ago from areas bordering Chirisa Game Park. It is understood that some livestock had made contact with buffalo from the park, where the security fence is in a shambles. These animals then went on to spread it to others at three nearby dip tanks.

Buffalo are the main carriers of foot-and-mouth disease. The government is mandated to contain and stop outbreaks of serious diseases in order to protect the national herd. Two months ago there were similar outbreaks of foot-and-mouth in the Midlands, while last November Mberengwa and Zvishavane districts were also hit by the disease. The government delayed dispatching teams to contain the disease, but eventually this was done.

However, in the latest case, the government has failed to come to the rescue of the affected peasant farmers. Thomas Sibanda, the provincial veterinary officer, confirmed the outbreak but said his department did not have the necessary vaccines.

“We are aware of the outbreak but there are no vaccines to go there and try to stop the outbreak. We are always on high alert for such cases and we send teams to go and assess the situation – but sadly I do not have the vaccines in my hand to help and I also do not know when I will get them from the parent ministry,” he said.

FAO project ended

Though Sibanda did not shed light on reasons why the department is failing to access the vaccines, sources told The Zimbabwean that it was due to the government’s bad financial situation.

“The government does not have money. This is the reason why they cannot disburse the vaccines to the veterinary department,” said the source. Government's financial capacity is strained by a huge wage bill of civil servants which gobble more that 70 percent of the national budget coupled with other misplaced priorities – such as international travel by the president and fancy vehicles for all ministers, judges and top civil servants – leaving little for critical expenditures like these.

In the past government relied on emergency assistance from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation to contain foot-and-mouth outbreaks. However, the project – dubbed "Emergency assistance to control foot-and-mouth disease outbreak” – has ended, leaving the broke government to battle the scourge on its own.

Post published in: Agriculture

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