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Tanzanian Poultry Farmers Urged to Protect Against Avian Flu (Part 4/5)

The Tanzanian government has called on poultry farmers to learn about avian influenza and adopt basic hygiene practices to protect against it.

Dr. Mmeta Yongolo is Tanzania’s national coordinator for avian influenza. He told VOA English to Africa reporter Douglas Mpuga the government has done surveys at different poultry sites and in livestock and wild birds and has found nothing of concern.

Dr. Yongolo said the government is conducting an awareness campaign but added, “We have not yet assessed the impact of this campaign. We intend to involve the poultry farmers, specifically those with ‘backyard chickens.’”

He said people with ‘backyard chickens’ are targeted because more than half of Tanzania’s 50 million chickens are kept in people’s back yards. “This is the group we have concentrated on through our district officials. We have targeted especially districts that we think are more at risk.”

Explaining the ban on importing poultry products into Tanzania, Dr. Yongolo said it was never total but targets only those countries thought to present a potential risk to Tanzania. He said the ban does not extend to Tanzania’s neighbors. “Our borders (East Africa) are porous and products come in and go out without detection.”

He said the East African Community is coordinating control and detection efforts in the region. “We have had several meetings, and there is the (Avian Flu) East African Community Taskforce, of which I am a member.”

Dr. Yongolo expressed appreciation to donors that have helped Tanzania in the fight against avian flu, especially in the areas of detection and testing.

He singled out United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which he said has helped train Tanzanians in diagnosis.

He said the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) has helped train medical personnel, and the University of Minnesota has partnered with the Tanzanian Ministry of Health in surveying and screening birds.

Yongolo said other UN agencies, such as the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), have also been helpful. “FAO have been helping in diagnosis and UNICEF has been supporting a lot on public awareness. This (awareness campaign) has been going for almost a year and half.”