Over the January 2020 to August 2021 period, 100 districts reported at least one case of foot and mouth disease,according to a September, 14, 2021 statement to Parliament by Hon. Bright Rwamirama, the Agriculture State Minister. In areas where people graze communally, it is a challenge to control Foot and Mouth Disease. In response the government has undertaken a vaccination intervention as well as enforcing quarantines in affected districts. The vaccine drive has been hampered by inadequate funding and the availability of fake vaccines on the market, while enforcement of the quarantine has been undermined by the illegal cross border movement of animals.
The government has no policy of compensating farmers and traders for losses suffered as a result of countermeasures such as quarantines and restrictions of trade in meat and dairy products. Further, long standing veterinary services delivery constraints persist such as the absence of quarantine stations, limited logistical support such as vehicles for quarantine enforcement and trained personnel to carry out disease surveillance.
Uganda has about 40 million livestock including 16 million goats, 15 million heads of cattle, 5.6 million sheep and 5 million swine.
Uganda’s beef is in high demand in the global market because of its low cholesterol and fat content. In addition, the global increase in population has further increased the demand for beef both locally and globally.
However, Uganda is not taking advantage of these market opportunities. One of the main reasons limiting access to foreign lucrative markets is the issue of trans boundary diseases (TBDs), and Foot and mouth disease (FMD) in particular. The frequent occurrences of FMD outbreaks threaten the livestock industry and livestock product exports. The cost of FMD is two-fold: death of animals and low milk production in infected animals; and loss of export trade due to rejection of products from a disease-infected country.
Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a viral disease of cloven-hoofed livestock and wildlife including cattle, goats, swine, sheep and buffalos. It is characterised by fever and blister-like sores on the tongue and lips, in the mouth, on the teats and between the hooves.
The disease causes severe production losses, as it spreads so easily through saliva, milk, semen, contaminated pens/buildings or contaminated animal transport vehicles; among others, and while the majority of affected animals recover, the disease often leaves them weakened and highly unproductive.
Local butchers were not happy with the government’s directive to ban the movement and sale of cattle and beef because it is a direct setback on their business. What seems to be the issue is the recurrent outbreak of the disease. And even though many local businesses are affected, due to restrictions on the sale of animal products like beef and milk, the measure taken by the government is understandable. To try and contain the spread of the disease.
FMD is also a global concern in the Office of international animal health (OIE) which requires that countries with FMD outbreaks take extreme control measures such as routine vaccination campaigns and restricting animal movements. In Uganda, the usual practices in case of an outbreak include vaccination, isolation and imposing cattle movement bans(quarantine).
In February 2021, Government imposed a quarantine on five districts in southwestern Uganda following the new outbreak of the foot and mouth disease. The affected districts are Gomba, Isingiro, Kazo, Kiruhura and Sembabule where the disease has been detected in many herds.
However, these practices have not been effective in eradicating FMD for a number of reasons: the inefficient and inadequate veterinary extension system, insufficient and inappropriate vaccines and the difficulty of controlling animal movements across national, borders, district and regional boundaries; and the informal trade of livestock within and between neighbouring countries.
Enforcing the quarantine in each affected district is supposed to be shared by the district police commander, chief administrative officer, LC V chairperson and the secretary for production. Any individual found guilty of transporting quarantined animals or selling their meat is supposed to be liable to three months’ imprisonment or a fine of Shs 2million.
In addition, the government has embarked on a vaccination campaign with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations that has donated 80,000 vaccine doses. The government procured an additional 615,000 doses which were entrusted to district veterinary officers in February this year(2022). In November 2021,the Ministry of Agriculture tabled a 20 billion UGX supplementary budget request before Parliament to procure 4 million vaccine doses to vaccinate 14.6 million animals in Lango, Ankole,Karamojja, Teso and Luweero sub regions. The Agriculture Minister is on record as stating that CAOs, RDCs and District Veterinary Officers will be held accountable for stolen vaccines. The vaccination is free and mandatory. Despite the availability of vaccines, reports of fake vaccines on the market are a concern.
The government has pledged to address delays in procurement of vaccines by investing in producing vaccines locally. Whereas, on March 31 2022, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture officially announced on Twitter that Foot and Mouth was under control, only a month later there were media reports of an outbreak in Adjumani and a vaccination drive was conducted in response.
You can listen to this space on The Government response to foot and mouth disease outbreak. Security below: https://soundcloud.com/wizarts2070/assessing-the-government-response-to-foot-and-mouth-disease-outbreak?in=wizarts2070/sets/wizarts-spaces
Wizarts Spaces are hosted on Thursday every week by Wizarts Foundation: a non-profit media NGO with the Vision and Mission to transform media and impact communities by opening windows of knowledge.