15 April 2003, Rome -- Outbreaks of
animal diseases threaten food security and risk crippling the
recovery of Afghanistan's fragile rural sector, FAO warned
as it appealed for funds for essential veterinary services.
FAO is appealing for a total of $6.89
million over a period of five years to fund projects to help the
Afghan government monitor and prevent outbreaks of diseases in
cattle, sheep, goats and poultry and to support veterinary field
clinics providing vaccinations and treatments.
"In Afghanistan, after the war and the
drought, the rains have finally arrived and people are just
beginning to rebuild their livelihoods and their
herds," said David Ward, a Veterinary expert from the
Organization's Animal Health Service. "But funds
for vital veterinary services have dried up at a time when both
farmers and the government need support," he added.
Private veterinarians need business loans
to buy medicines and vaccines to sell to farmers and the
government needs training in order to deliver public services
such as disease control and prevention, FAO said.
"The government simply has no resources to
dedicate to animal health, quality control and safety,"
Ward explained. "It was a role that, up until now, had
been played by FAO but we would like to help the Afghan
government to provide these much-needed public services and
strengthen its abilities to prevent and deal with potentially
devastating disease outbreaks."
A global programme to
eradicate rinderpest - also known as "cattle
plague" - has been successful in Asia and there is now
growing confidence that the virus has been defeated there.
But livestock move freely across borders
and carry with them the risk of outbreaks. Therefore, vigilance
against a resurgence of rinderpest must be maintained until its
absence is proven unequivocally. Such a resurgence would put the
whole of Central Asia at risk.
is part of the way through a five-year disease eradication
process. A lack of funds will prevent the country completing
this process and declaring itself disease-free.
FAO said some $2 million of the total appeal is needed
for an immediate project to bolster government monitoring of
transboundary animal diseases at livestock markets and along
borders and to respond to possible outbreaks.
Risk of foot-and-mouth disease
On a national scale, an outbreak of
foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) would debilitate cattle which
plough wheat fields in the "breadbaskets" of
Western and Northern Afghanistan and till soil in irrigated
valleys, seriously threatening food security.
"FMD spreads through contact between animals
- for example at markets. The sick animals have sores on their
feet and in their mouth so they can't drag a plough. Having
a sick animal can cause a food crisis in the family,"
Most Afghani farming
households depend on cattle - usually a single ox - to plough
their wheat fields at planting time. A handful of sheep or
goats, perhaps six or seven, represent a household's
savings and the offspring and animals' products are sold to
raise cash in an emergency. Northern sheep raisers and nomadic
tribes have herds of up to 300 sheep which they depend upon for
skins, wool and milk.
Outbreaks of FMD,
which affects cattle, and peste des petits ruminants (PPR),
which affects goats and sheep, would therefore hit both the
households' immediate source of food and its medium-term
source of emergency funds.
FAO plans to
offer capacity-building support to over 200 local private
veterinary field clinics, based throughout the country, which
have been delivering veterinary treatments, de-worming against
parasites and vaccinations on a fee-based basis for the past 10
The field clinics cover 70 percent
of the country and reach some 90 percent of livestock. FAO
estimates that one third of all livestock have been vaccinated,
at the owner's expense, against common diseases each year.
FAO's funds would also be spent on
training local and national authorities so they can deliver
public services such as disease control and prevention. It would
include refresher education, computer and language training and
telephone and internet connections.
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570