Health authorities in Nigeria have launched what they call an integrated national plan on avian influenza, also known as bird flu. Officials say the plan is designed to bring about a change in the way poultry is handled to prevent the spread of the disease.
VOA English to Africa Service reporter Chinedu Offor visited a poultry market in Lagos to see how the plan’s working.
“More than three months after Nigeria reported its first human death from the deadly H5N1 virus and one year after the country had the sub-region’s first case of the disease, little has changed in the way birds are handled,” he says.
At a poultry market in Lagos, “chickens, turkeys and geese are crowded together in coops. Children who make brisk business helping buyers kill, clean and cut the birds do so with bare hands, without gloves or face masks,” says Offor.
This goes against government guidelines, which also call for destroying birds that are sickly. “But sellers merely reduce the price of sick birds, which are promptly snapped up by buyers looking for bargains,” he says.
The government says it is worried about the handling of poultry, urging good hygienic practices during the slaughtering of birds. This includes using refrigerated containers and freezers when killing or transporting poultry.