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Livestock disease in DRC a serious threat

PPR has an 86% mortality rate in goats (© FAO/Giulio Napolitano)
PPR has an 86% mortality rate in goats
© FAO/Giulio Napolitano

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) 1 million goats and 600,000 sheep are at risk of contracting peste des petits ruminants (PPR), representing one-quarter of goats and two-thirds of sheep throughout the entire country. "This is the worst livestock epidemic in the country in more than 10 years," explains Ndiaga Gueye from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). "We're seeing that in response to the threat of their animals contracting the disease, farmers are moving their animals away from infected villages to where there have been no disease outbreaks, which has been spreading the virus to healthy flocks of animals."

According to the government, 75,000 goats, which are generally kept by the poorest farmers, have already died from the disease. FAO has warned that the virulent livestock disease, which has an 86 per cent mortality rate in goats, not only threatens food security in DRC, but could also spread to other countries in southern Africa that have never had the disease. In response, the UN agency is providing funds to vaccinate 500,000 sheep and goats in unaffected areas, limit animal movements, raise awareness to educate farmers about the steps they can take to prevent PPR, increase surveillance and train veterinarians to recognise the disease.

"Peste des petits ruminants is caused by a virus that is similar to measles in humans and rinderpest in cattle," says Juan Lubroth, FAO's Chief Veterinary Officer. "Excellent vaccines exist to protect small ruminants from PPR, and these can be a key weapon in combating it. Rinderpest was eradicated only thanks to the full commitment from donors, the scientific community, development organizations, our main partners the OIE and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), member governments and farmers the world over to be rid of it. We can do the same with PPR should there be the political will," Lubroth adds.

Date published: August 2012

 

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