News / Africa

Livestock Epidemic Spreading in DRC

DRC herdsmen are losing their goats to a disease Ovine rinderpest. Authorities say about 25,000 goats have died of the disease and another 5,000 from infected herds have been slaughtered during the past six months, May 19, 2012. (N. Long)
DRC herdsmen are losing their goats to a disease Ovine rinderpest. Authorities say about 25,000 goats have died of the disease and another 5,000 from infected herds have been slaughtered during the past six months, May 19, 2012. (N. Long)
Nick Long
KINSHASA - The Democratic Republic of Congo is asking for help in controlling the worst outbreak of a livestock disease in the country in recent years. In Kinshasa an epidemic of ovine rinderpest is killing goats and sheep.
No one knows the full scale of this epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  But in one territory where figures were collected - Massima Nimba in Bandundu province - the authorities say about 25,000 goats have died of the disease and another 5,000 from infected herds have been slaughtered during the past six months.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's DRC representative, Diaga Gaye, says this is the worst livestock epidemic in more than 10 years in the country.

“There is a very, very serious outbreak of this disease, mostly in the province of Bandundu.  And according to information we get from our colleagues in the field, the disease is spreading and being declared in other provinces,” he said.

Ovine rinderpest, also known as PPR, cannot be transmitted to humans.  But it is serious for the population, says Dr. Lemba Mabela, the head of Congo’s veterinary service.

Dr. Mabela says goats are the poor man’s cows. And every financial problem the poor have, whether it Is a problem with the chief, or with the administration or a marriage problem, is settled with goats.

Ovine rinderpest was first confirmed in the DRC in 2008, although it had long been suspected.  Experts at the veterinary service say as soon as farmers see the symptoms, which include diarrhea, a running nose and hair sticking up, they often dispose of the sick animals and drive the rest to other villages - spreading the disease.

The government has for the first time asked for FAO help with a mass vaccination campaign.  Vaccinations against the disease have already started in neighboring Congo Brazzaville.

The FAO representative says vaccinations need to be carefully targeted, around the contaminated areas.

“When the disease is already in a designated area it Is too late to vaccinate," Gaye stated. "Better is to vaccinate animals in not yet contaminated areas.”

The government veterinary service agrees and explains that animals already carrying the virus may still die if they are vaccinated, warning  the vaccine would be wasted and farmers might lose faith in it.  So an an information campaign is also being planned.

“We have to combine vaccination and information and sensitization of people so that they understand there is no need to try to escape the disease simply by transferring animals from an infected area to a safe area," Gaye said. "On the contrary, they will just contribute to disseminating the disease.”

The government’s veterinary workers will need to support an information campaign if it is to work.  There are several thousand veterinary workers in the Congo, many of them supervising livestock markets like the Liberty Market on the outskirts of Kinshasa where goats from Bandundu are sold.  

Veterinary technician Benjamin Memwilemi works at Liberty Market. He says it would be difficult to control the movement of goats in the interior.  He said the way to persuade farmers not to move their animals out of contaminated areas is to provide treatment for the animals in those areas.

This is not the government’s or FAO’s message.  It appeared Memwilemi had been told very little about ovine rinderpest, he also said he did not know the symptoms, although cases have been identified in Kinshasa.
The government declared the epidemic only two weeks ago and is still discussing with the Food and Agriculture Organization what can be done.  The FAO has agreed to contribute $500,000 for free vaccinations of half a million goats around Massima Nimba, starting next month.

The vaccine will cost about 50 cents per animal, but there are other costs, including transport, freezers and paying the personnel.  The Food and Agriculture Organization says the $500,000 is just an initial response and much more funding will be needed.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs