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Urgent livestock vaccination campaign in South Sudan in jeopardy without more support

Keeping animals alive and healthy is vital to combat hunger - Donor appeal

Photo: ©FAO/Lieke Visser
FAO aims to protect nearly 9 million animals in South Sudan to combat increasingly frequent outbreaks of diseases.

Juba, 23 January 2018 - The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is seeking $7.5 million to roll out a critically needed emergency livestock vaccination campaign in South Sudan.

FAO aims to protect nearly 9 million animals (30 percent of the country's livestock) - scaling up from 6 million in 2017 - to combat increasingly frequent outbreaks of animal diseases. To date, FAO has only a quarter of the funds it needs ($2.5 million out of $10 million).

Keeping animals alive and healthy is vital in a country where most of the population relies on livestock for their very survival, and half of the population is grappling with acute hunger.

"In most parts of the country, FAO and its partners are the main provider of vaccinations. We are trying to reach as many animals as possible now. If we wait for two more months, the rains will start taking over; half of the country will soon be completely cut off or extremely difficult to access, and a huge number of animals risk being trapped in an impossible situation," said Serge Tissot, FAO Representative in South Sudan.

"We vaccinated 300,000 animals so far against prevalent diseases such as black quarter, haemorrhagic septicaemia and anthrax, in Aweil state, in the north-west of the country. Famers there told us that their cattle have been sick for months, and we reached them just in time to check the situation, provide necessary heath care and start vaccinations to protect their livestock against major diseases. Yet, unless more funds come in, we are unable to reach other farmers facing the same fears - losing their livelihoods," added Tissot.

"When my animal got sick, I used some herbs from the bush because there are no drugs in this area. But this didn't help. The animal lost weight and its coat doesn't look ok. Now it has stopped eating. I'm afraid it will soon die," said Kiir Mawein, a cattle keeper from Aweil.

People in rural areas are forced to feed herbs to their sick animals or to go into the nearest town - often a trip of several days on foot - only to find out that there are no veterinary drugs, or that they are too expensive.

The $7.5 million that FAO still requires would not only cover vaccination costs but would also build three new cold chain hubs in remote areas. This would help to address some major setbacks when it comes to delivering animal health care services and medicines in South Sudan: distance, hot climate (average temperature is 30°C, up to 45°C during the hottest months), lack of infrastructure and health services.

"For people in South Sudan, cattle means life. They "chase away hunger", as farmers put it. They don't only provide an important source of nutritious food, but also act as a safety net; when faced with an emergency, farmers can turn to selling one of their animals to cover other urgent needs," added Tissot.

To build resilience and ensure a better delivery of animal health care services, FAO has set up a network of community-based animal health workers.

To date, 1,000 community-based animal health workers have been trained and are carrying-out routine check-ups and vaccinating livestock as part of FAO's Emergency Livestock Response Programme.

Supporting a sustainable community-based animal health workers' system has significantly contributed to delivering adequate animal health care as well as preventive and emergency vaccination campaigns.

In 2018, FAO aims to train an additional 1,000 community-based animal health workers to spread the reach of veterinary services. FAO also continues to work with women groups to reinforce small-scale businesses - supplying and selling animal products like milk and other milk products.

FAO's work in South Sudan is possible thanks to support from: USA, European Union, Denmark, Canada, Japan, Norway, World Bank, UK, Switzerland, the Netherlands, South Sudan Humanitarian Fund and Kuwait.

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