LEBANON - The second phase of a campaign to vaccinate livestock in Lebanon has begun, to try and prevent diseases spreading from animals brought in by Syrian refugees.
1.5 million refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria have brought with them large numbers of unvaccinated sheep, goats, cattle and other animals, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), who are carrying out the campaign.
Lebanon's Ministry for Agriculture have said that as many as 70,000 cattle and around 900,000 sheep and goats could be exposed to transboundary diseases if left untreated.
The vaccination campaign aims to cut down the numbers of animals becoming ill or dying due to preventable diseases and to protect vulnerable people living in rural areas.
These communities are already seeing a strain on their natural resources because of the spill-over effects from the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
The three most prevalent animal diseases detected in Lebanon include lumpy skin disease, foot-and-mouth disease and peste des petits ruminants, also known as "sheep and goat plague".
The latter is highly contagious and characterised by fever, mouth sores, diarrhoea, rapid weight loss, pneumonia and a high death rate in a short period of time.
The FAO's target of vaccinating all animals is expected to be difficult to achieve because of the challenges in reaching some remote areas and gaining the confidence of the farmers and pastoralists residing there.
One farmer in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley said: "Some animals are dying. The viruses were affecting our income.
"This year the cattle got the vaccination so we hope the result will show in the near future."
Maurice Saade, FAO Representative in Lebanon said: "The idea is to reduce the risk of disease, and avoid drops in the productivity of the national herd."
FAO estimates that almost 60 percent of livestock farmers in Lebanon depend on dairy animals as their main source of income.
Another step in the emergency plan is to provide a communication network that can directly connect different monitoring centres across the country to establish an early warning system, should any new diseases be detected.
The project follows on from a successful initial vaccination programme last year which was credited with stopping any widespread animal disease outbreaks. Both phases received funding from the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID).
TheCattleSite News Desk