FAO in Afghanistan

FAO Vaccinates Nearly 4 million Cattle Against Lumpy Skin Disease in Afghanistan

Agha Baradar stands next to his now healthy, vaccinated cow. Photo ©FAO/Sayed Suliman Shah Hashimi

The outbreak of Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) in cattle caused a lot of hardship for the community of Qalai Bayazed in Parwan province. The villagers rely heavily on cattle rearing for their livelihoods and the disease led to reduced milk production, weight loss, and the death of many cattle. It was a challenging time for them.

Supported by the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AHF) and its own Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP), the Food and Agriculture Organization launched a year-long vaccination campaign to combat the LSD outbreak. A total of 3.96 million cattle belonging to 1.8 million households across 34 provinces were vaccinated in 2023. This provides evidence that most households only have a few cows: two on average, to supplement the income from other farming activities and provide dairy products to the family.

In Qalai Bayazed village 290 cattle were vaccinated. Agha Baradar, an elder of the community, expressed his satisfaction with the results of the campaign. "This disease severely affected our cows. They are essential to our food and income. Thanks to the vaccinations, our cattle regained most of their health, and milk production has increased again."

The Lumpy Skin Disease vaccination campaign was not limited to Parwan; it covered all 34 provinces in Afghanistan In Bamiyan province, 136 700 cows belonging to 50 630 households were vaccinated. The livestock of Mohammad Kabir, a herder in Bamiyan, was severely affected by the disease. He first thought his cows would heal by themselves if he dealt with this novel sickness by using the traditional methods, he is familiar with. But the disease spread. After consulting with a village veterinarian, he vaccinated his animals against LSD. This partially healed his affected cows and curbed the spread of the disease.

The vaccinations are provided free of charge and are administered by local veterinarians, who receive training, protective gear and supplies from FAO. Initially, convincing the villagers of the importance of vaccination posed a challenge. Afghans rarely treat their livestock with medicine. Through awareness campaigns and community mobilization, and by observing the devastating effects of the disease on their cattle, villagers came to understand that vaccinating their cows not only protects but improves their health. Healthy cows grow bigger and stronger, yield more milk for the family, and provide more income to farmers through increased sales of dairy products, meat, and other products.

FAO is fortunate to have an extensive network of specialists throughout Afghan society and good contacts with local communities, which allowed it to make a significant, perhaps decisive dent in the spread of this disease in 2023. In 2024, FAO Afghanistan will continue monitoring the disease and seek resources to fund vaccination campaigns in those place that it rears its head again.