A Zanzibari official says the island’s dependence on imported poultry products could affect its tourism industry. Dr. Kassim Gharib Juma is Zanzibar’s director of veterinary services. He told VOA English to Africa reporter Douglas Mpuga that in 2005 the fear of an outbreak of avian influenza led to a ban of importation of poultry products.
The ban has since been partially lifted for poultry from selected countries, but the fear of an outbreak remains. Dr. Kassim said there is no avian influenza in Zanzibar but its presence “in other countries has affected our import of poultry because most of the tourist hotels here depend on imported poultry. That has drastically affected the menu of the hotels as far as poultry products are concerned.”
Some people keep chickens and other domestic birds in their backyards, a practice Dr. Kassim said could be a problem. He said it could be “a source of infection to humans because 80 percent of the households here keep ‘backyard chickens.’ [The chickens] are so close to people that if they get infected you might expect that the infection could come to the household as well.”
He said the threat of avian flu in Zanzibar is made worse by people smuggling poultry products into the country. “But also,” he added, “Zanzibar lies on the path of migratory birds from East Asia. So we are at risk because of that. Then there is the other risk of getting it because our neighbors Sudan and Djibouti have had bird flu cases, and we are very close.”
But Dr. Kassim is optimistic that an outbreak of avian flu can be averted because of the vigorous awareness campaign on the island. “People are very much aware (of the avian flu threat). We have conducted a campaign, giving seminars to people in the poultry industry, farmers, our veterinary and medical staff, local authorities and the general public.”
Since Zanzibar partially removed the restriction on the importation of poultry products, demand for them has been increasing, especially from the tourism industry.