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UN donates millions to help Zimbabwe fight Foot-and-mouth

19 January 2007

ZIMBABWE - A US$10.3 million donation by the United Nations to Zimbabwe for combating foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) will be insufficient unless the ruling ZANU-PF party government also contributes to the fight against the cattle sickness, the country's veterinarians said.

The recurrence of FMD has become an almost annual event for the past seven years, and in 2001 led to the European Union (EU) cancelling its 9,100mt beef quota, worth an annual US$38 million or about 4 percent of foreign currency earnings, because of Zimbabwe's failure to control livestock diseases.

"Government should pour in more money and intensify its efforts to eradicate cattle diseases," said local veterinarian Luke Streak. "The traditional outbreak of foot-and-mouth ... especially [in areas] ... close to the border with Botswana, remains a serious threat that should be brought under control if our national herd is to be revived and preserved. The [UN] money is just too little, considering the scale of the problem."

Small-scale farmers have seen their livestock decimated by outbreaks of highly contagious FMD, a viral disease carried by wild buffalo, which does not affect humans but has devastating effects on animals with cloven hooves, such as cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and deer, as well as anthrax, a disease caused by the bacillus anthracis, which can also infect humans.

The government's failure to address bovine diseases has reduced Zimbabwe's national herd from 1.4 million head of cattle in 2000 to about 250,000 at present.

Mandlenkosi Dube, a farmer in the village of Maphisa, near the Botswana border in Matabeleland South Province, said he had a flourishing herd of 30 cattle five years ago, but since the onset of FMD and other livestock diseases, he has been left with just five.

"Like most people here, I rely on my livestock for survival. For instance, for me to be able to pay school fees for my three children I have to sell one cow or at least three goats. Also, we use the cattle for draught power [to plough] ... But there has been a problem of cattle diseases over the years that have killed our animals," he told IRIN.

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Source: Reuters AlertNet



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