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)
TEXT SIZE - +
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

'Exceptionally Lucky' US Boy Survives Flight in Wheel Well

The boy was unconscious for most of the flight, and appeared to be unharmed after enduring the extremely cold temperatures and lack of oxygen More

US Anti-Corruption Law Snags Major Tech Company

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in December, 1977 More

Cameron Criticized for Calling UK 'Christian Country'

Letter from scientists, academics and writers says the prime minister is fostering division by repeatedly referring to England as a 'Christian country' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid