‘Tanzanian Veterinary Authorities expose East African livestock to unnecessary risk of F

by Linda Garner

 
‘Tanzanian Veterinary Authorities expose East African livestock to unnecessary risk of Foot & Mouth disease’.


Addressing a press conference in Windhoek, Namibia this week, the Minister of Livestock development for Tanzania Dr. Kawambwa stated that Tanzania ‘…offers excellent investment opportunities for Namibian agro-processing businesses…’ should Namibians wish to expand their livestock businesses into Tanzania. Dr. Mohammed Bahari, acting Director for Livestock and Traceability, Tanzania Agricultural Ministry stated that Tanzania had managed to eradicate various strains of Foot & Mouth disease from the country. However, the reality of the situation is, that investors and local communities should be seriously concerned by the negligent manner by which outbreaks of this very serious disease are miss-managed in Tanzania resulting in an unsafe livestock investor and trade environment.

A recent outbreak of the disease in Moshi, in the Hai District of the Kilimanjaro region close to the Kenyan border demonstrates that Government Veterinary officers have deliberately ignored the disease for five months and have thereby placed the country’s livestock at serious risk of contamination from the disease. This must cast doubt on Dr. Kawambwa assertions and, has exposed inter-country livestock trade, fragile livelihoods and, village economies to negligent and unnecessary risk and economic harm.

On 11th May 2006 Veterinary Officers were called to Silverdale Farm in the Hai District of the Kilimanjaro Region where Mrs Millie Benjamin Mengi wife of Moshi Hotelier, Benjamin Mengi, keeps a number of cattle and goats. Animals were found in January 2006 to be dying from malnutrition and disease and the owner of the farm commissioned an independent veterinary report. The report, prepared by two European veterinary officers from Arusha, identified the animals as suffering from severe malnutrition as a result of prolonged miss-management and, an advanced and general infection of Foot and Mouth Disease. The report was immediately submitted to Dr. Swai, Veterinary Investigative Officer for the Northern Zone.

Dr Kweka, the District Livestock officer for the Hai District was immediately informed of the outbreak but did not attend the farm in order to secure the necessary quarantine measures to protect the surrounding area from contamination. Dr. Kweka was called again on Friday the 12th May and asked to attend to deal with the situation. He attended the farm late afternoon and stated, ‘I am satisfied that the animals are suffering Foot and Mouth Disease’. Kweka did not however, impose a quarantine order on the animals as is required by law.

Dr. Swai attended the farm on Saturday the 13th May with Dr. Kweka. On attending the farm, Dr. Swai found seven dead cows and five dead goats in various stages of decomposition surrounding the cowsheds where Mengi keeps her animals. One animal was found dead and rotting inside the shed. Beside this dead animal, Mengi’s staff were milking a cow, which had Foot and Mouth lesions on its Teats.

Dr. Swai immediately confirmed that the animals were in appalling condition and were infected with Foot & Mouth Disease. He stated he did not feel the need to take ‘swabs’ from the animals. He advised Dr. Kweka to immediately quarantine the animals. He further stated that Dr. Kweka should personally supervise the burying of the animals in compliance with the law. Foot and Mouth disease is a reportable disease.

On questioning the four permanent staff members employed by Mengi and examining the records kept by them, Dr. Swai and Dr. Kweka confirmed that the problem had existed since January 2006. On asking Mengi’s staff why they had not been reporting the deaths or attempting to bury the animals, they stated that Mr. Mengi had been repeatedly told of the appalling conditions the animals were in. They further stated that they had been given explicit instructions by Mr. Mengi not to bury the carcasses of the dead animals but to leave them to rot where they had died. The staff also stated that no medications or inoculations had been supplied to them to administer to the animals and no attempt was being made to feed them properly or assist them overcome the disease or alleviate their suffering.

In his report dated 17th May 2006, Dr. Swai found routine premises hygiene to be poor due to unsupervised and dwindling livestock management. He found the animals to be ill attended and in poor to bad condition. No segregation was taking place and no veterinary care was being administered to the animals. Dr. Swai stated clearly in his report, that because of miss-management, the possibility of the disease spreading to local communities was high. He states, ‘Foot & Mouth Disease is a notifyable disease and measures to control it should be instituted as soon as possible’. Dr. Swai’s recommendation to District Veterinary Officer Kweka was that a quarantine order be issued immediately, the control and movement of Mengi's staff, vehicles and movements be thoroughly monitored and controlled, all dairy by-products should be destroyed and that the disease should be thoroughly monitored by District Veterinary Officers.

Dr. Swai’s report was copied to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Livestock Development and the regional Livestock Officer in Moshi.

On Tuesday 16th May, Dr. Kweka had still not quarantined the animals and three more were found dead. Mengi’s staff stated that they had died in the shed overnight and they had dragged the carcasses outside of the shed in accordance with instructions given to them by Mr. and Mrs. Mengi. Dr. Kweka was telephoned and asked to attend the farms and supervise the burial of the animals. Dr. Kweka refused to attend allegedly stating, ‘the issue was complicated’ and ‘I have been threatened by Mengi not to attend’.

The Regional Commissioner for the Kilimanjaro region, Mr. Babu was immediately informed of what was fast becoming an increasingly dangerous situation. Mr. Babu instructed Dr. Kweka to attend the farm immediately. Dr. Kweka did not attend the farm as instructed and the Regional Commissioner was informed of this refusal. On Thursday 18th and 20th May respectively, two further animals were found dead on the farm with Dr. Kweka again, refusing to attend

On Sunday the 21st May, nine stinking carcasses remained on the farm with Mengi’s staff refusing to bury the animals. Dr. Swai stated ‘this is not my responsibility, my duty is to advise and that is what I have done, this is Dr. Kweka’ s responsibility’. On Monday the 22nd May eleven days after the Foot and Mouth outbreak no quarantine measures were in place. The animals continued to be milked with the milk being sold for human consumption in Moshi Town. The animals continued to drink from furrow water sources on the farm that flow into the Kimashuku area and beyond to the TPC Sugar Estates.

Foot and Mouth disease is a very serious reportable disease. If unchecked an outbreak is capable of contaminating inter community and inter country livestock. It can also, under rare circumstances infect human beings and is potentially, fatal.

On the 25th May, two weeks after the outbreak of the disease, Dr. Kweka delivered a quarantine order to Mengi (I.G. G/V 30/1/Vol.1/81), which was posted on the gates to the farm. However, Kweka has not visited the farm once in five months to supervise the quarantine or, to ensure that Mengi and his staff are complying with it.

On the 15th October 2006, the animals are still suffering from Foot and Mouth Disease having remained unsupervised for five months by the Tanzanian Veterinary Authorities. Mr. and Mrs. Mengi and their staff persistently remove animals from the farm for slaughter and continue to derive milk from the animals for sale in Moshi Town. Mengi and his staff have failed to abide in any way with the quarantine order as required by law. Most importantly, the animals have not been inoculated and as such, are continuously re-exposed to the disease posing a serious problem to the surrounding community. Dr. Kweka (or any other government veterinary officer) has not attended the farm once in five months and Dr. Swai and the police have failed to take any measures to ensure compliance with the quarantine Order.

Given this unchecked situation creates a very dangerous public health hazard in Tanzania generally very pertinent questions should now be asked as to why, the outbreak of a highly contagious and potentially fatal disease is being deliberately ignored by the Tanzanian Veterinary Authorities. Members of the Hai district community should be asking this question and should be concerned for the future of their livestock particularly, with the looming inception of the East African Community.

Mr. S. Dass, The Director of the Veterinary Investigation Centre, Dar es Salaam, was informed of the miss-management of the disease on 29th June 2006 and, has failed to take any measures to rectify the situation. It is visibly apparent that this negligent supervision has led to the transmission of the disease to local communities. Livestock in the Kimashukoo area are showing advanced stages of the disease. With the outbreak situated so close to the Kenyan border, there is a high risk of the disease spreading throughout the East African region.

Under the circumstances, it is difficult to see how, Dr. Kawambwa can proclaim with any sincerity a commitment to eradicate Foot & Mouth Disease within Tanzania with such negligent conduct being practiced so overtly by government veterinary officers. It is also difficult to see how, Namibian agro-processing can benefit from the addition of Tanzanian livestock when Tanzania appears to be incapable of any basic control of this very serious disease. Both Dr. Kawambwa and Dr. Bahari’s statements albeit, made with sincerity, are seriously undermined by this present case and a serious question mark now hovers above the heads of the Tanzanian Veterinary Authorities and its potential and willingness to contain infectious livestock diseases.

To date, the disease continues to contaminate and the quarantine order continues to be breached with immunity by Mr. And Mrs. Mengi and their staff.


Roderick Butler.
Freelance Journalist

15th October, 2006.





Posted on Oct 21, 2006, 1:55 AM

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