FAO carries out vaccinations to remove diseases in South Sudan

Vaccination campaign in Torit


Nearly 5 million people in South Sudan will face significant pressure on their food security in 2012, and one million of them may not have enough to eat, according to a joint report issued by FAO and WFP. The FAO-WFP report, Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission to South Sudan (CFSAM) says due to erratic rainfall, and continued conflict over the past few months, harvests have been poor.

The country has only half the grain it needs for 2012. There are hopes that livestock – cattle, sheep, goats and poultry - will help bridge the gap. But diseases endemic to the region threaten the herds. FAO is racing against time to carry out vaccinations to remove that threat. In Hiyala ‘payam’, a small district in South Sudan, 2 500 hundred cattle are being vaccinated. Children use sticks to drive the long-horned cows into a cattle run or crush.

Fighting disease

In a few minutes it’s over. Agricultural workers inject the cows and push them on into an open field. Simon Gama, has been a herder in this ‘payam’ or hamlet, all his life. Over the years, he’s learnt some hard lessons about the importance of vaccination. East Coast Fever (ECF) has cut swathes through the herds here in Eastern Equatoria State.

Alex Quinto is an Animal Health Inspector. He says it’s not just East Coast Fever threatening the cattle here. There’s Anthrax, Lung Plague, sleeping sickness, lumpy skin disease and more.

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It’s estimated that South Sudan has between 8 and 12 million head of cattle. Around one in five reportedly die of infections. It’s a significant loss to herders. When a harvest is poor, they can be sold for cash or exchanged for food. Selling one cow can buy a family here enough grain to feed them for up to three months.

FAO has supported vaccination campaigns in South Sudan since the 1980s. It also provides the fridges used to store them. It mounted the successful campaign to eradicate Rinderpest in the country. Alex Quinto was part of that vaccination effort.

In 2011, FAO helped carry out more than four million vaccinations, under projects funded by the USAid and the Common Humanitarian Fund. This year, there will be severe food shortages in South Sudan. Erratic rainfall and conflict have meant the harvests have been poor. It’s hoped that the herds of cattle sheep and goats will help see the people of the country through the lean months ahead.