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FAO creates massive awareness over possible rinderpest re-emergence

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…uses radio broadcast to alert farmers, pastoralists

By Gabriel Ewepu

ABUJA- THE Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, UN, has begun massive awareness creation over rinderpest disease outbreak in the country.

This was contained in a statement signed by National Communication Officer, FAO, David Karls, Friday, which said the move was made known by the Country Representative in Nigeria and to ECOWAS, FAO, Suffyan Koroma, who said that a special awareness creation programme will alert livestock farmers and pastoralists in Nigeria on the likely reemergence of rinderpest.

Koroma said the awareness creation became necessary and was to keep farmers and pastoralists on the alert, what to do when signs of the devastating animal disease or other Transboundary Animal Diseases, TADs, are noticed on their livestock.

He said the programme sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), as part of support to the government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), aims to raise awareness among pastoralists of the dangers of this disease that killed millions of animals before it was pronounced globally eradicated in 2011.

According to him rinderpest, also a TAD was stamped out but virus samples were kept by some institutions for research purposes. At an African regional conference in 2015, five countries, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan, agreed that the Virus Containing Materials, VCM, kept in laboratories should either be destroyed or sent to the Pan African Veterinary Centre of the African Union, AU-PANVAC, in Ethiopia for safekeeping.

However, some laboratories in universities and other research institutes retained the VCM. This action gave vent to the expressed anxiety that it might be reintroduced, either through accidental spillage or other human errors and it will spread to grazing areas.

“This awareness campaign began in 2017 during a Livestock stakeholders’ strategic communication meeting to keep the participants abreast on disease recognition and the need for early warning in the case of reemergence.

“The distribution of awareness-creation posters to livestock farmers across 18 states, three each from the six geopolitical regions of the country compliments the radio broadcast.”

He also explained the listening of groups, which he said were delineated in the states, added that earlier in March the campaign was monitored, as the radio broadcast begun on the March 27, 2018 and will run for six weeks.

According to him (Koroma) before the distribution of the awareness-creation posters, the message was to be broadcasted on the platforms of Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN, regional stations in Enugu, Ibadan and Kaduna in four different languages of Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa and Fulfulde contains information regarding the highly contagious epidemic animal diseases, rinderpest and TADs poses.

“The intention is to keep the world and our country free from Rinderpest, and to protect our animals from other dangerous animal diseases. We have to be vigilant and to immediately alert veterinary services providers to prevent further spread of infections on our animals. The message will be broadcasted twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday morning and evening for six weeks to ensure effective penetration to the target audience”, Koroma said.

He said livestock farmers are tasked to ensure that they report unusual behavior among their animals, as other known TADs like foot and mouth disease, contagious bovine, pleuropneumonia, lumpy skin disease, sheep and goat pox, peste des petits ruminants, African swine fever, rabies and brucellosis are equally as dangerous and needs to be tackled as soon as they are noticed.

The message will be closely monitored by the members of the listening groups identified in the states, which include federal/state veterinary and animal husbandry officials, members of relevant interest groups, cattle breeders, farmers and owners as well as female pastoralists.

Meanwhile, he disclosed that FAO in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development had sponsored some experts to destroy the remaining rinderpest specimen kept in some university laboratories in Sokoto and Borno States.

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