Gambia Declares Animal Health Emergency

The government of The Gambia through the Office of the Minister of Agriculture has declared a National Animal Health Emergency in the country with effect from Wednesday November 8th 2012.

This came following a laboratory confirmation of an outbreak of Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP) in Central River and Upper River Regions and the subsequent follow up assessment mission to the country by the Crises Management Centre-Animal Health of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

Below is the full text of the declaration;

Following the laboratory confirmation of an outbreak of Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP) in Central River and Upper River Regions and the subsequent follow up assessment mission to the country by the Crises Management Centre-Animal Health of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the Government of The Gambia through the Office of the Minister of Agriculture declares a National Animal Health Emergency in the country with effect from Wednesday November 8th 2012.

Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia is an infectious, highly contagious and one of the most important transboundary diseases of cattle. This disease is considered as the biggest threat to cattle production in sub-Saharan Africa on which so many people are dependent for their livelihoods.

CBPP was last reported in The Gambia in 1971 and vaccinations against the disease ceased in the country since 1987. This signifies that after 41 years of absence of the disease in the country and 25 years of non vaccination against it, the cattle population is highly susceptible to the disease. This situation is further aggravated by the fact that the N'Dama Cattle, the predominant breed of cattle in the country is known to be highly susceptible to CBPP. Losses in cattle in Niamina Dankunku, Central River Region, the most seriously affected district in the country where the disease was first reported and confirmed in August 2012, is reported within the range of 40-50% mortality.

CBPP will continue to spread throughout The Gambia (and beyond) unless control measures are taken. The disease has the potential to cause the deaths of upwards of 200, 000 heads of cattle in The Gambia (based on the 2011 Agricultural census estimating cattle population at 390, 000 heads). The monetary value of this loses is equivalent to nearly two billion Dalasis. Re-establishment of the lost herds to current numbers is only practicable by breeding and could take nearly a decade. The unique Trypanotolerance genetic value of N'Dama cattle may be put at risk by CBPP.

On behalf of the people of The Gambia and the National Council on Disaster and food security, I respectfully bring to your attention the plight of the Gambian families who are entirely dependent on their livestock for their livelihoods. The impact of CBPP on these families has been and will be extremely severe with livelihoods, food security, social and development consequences. The projection is that the impact on the national economy will be dramatic with decline in production, scarcity of products, rising market prices and financial losses to public and government.

In response to this emerging crisis, the Government of The Gambia is mobilizing all available emergency funds for immediate action to contain and control the outbreak, and hereby calls on the international community, development partners, NGOs and other stakeholders to assist in effectively addressing the situation to prevent it from spreading to other parts of the country and beyond. The Government is also taking immediate actions to enhance the capacity of veterinary services to put in place adequate measures for effective, sustainable and progressive control and eradication of the disease.

The disease outbreak has been assessed and the Ministry of Agriculture has developed a five point strategic plan of actions to contain the disease as follows: Country wide mass vaccination of the entire national herds (390, 000 heads of cattle) against CBPP at no cost to farmers (using the T144 Lyophilized CBPP vaccines with PANVAC Quality Control Certificate) starting with Central River and Upper River Regions; strengthening the diagnostic and serological surveillance capability of the Central Veterinary Laboratory to enhance diagnosis and sero surveillance of the disease and to conduct countrywide serological surveillance to determine current Prevalence of the Diseases; capacity building for Disease Surveillance Officers at field level for intensification of clinical surveillance and build capacity of meat inspection personnel for intensification of surveillance for the disease at abattoir level; country wide sensitization campaign using community and national radio, posters and other communication media as part of a national communications and awareness programme directed at sensitizing the population to the disease, its clinical signs and control and the need for vaccination and development of a 5 Year National Strategy and Action Plan for Control of Disease (Emergency Preparedness Plan).

As an immediate measure to prevent the rapid spread of the disease to other parts of the country, transhumance of cattle between the regions of the country is temporarily suspended until the completion of the first phase of the countrywide mass vaccination campaign which is envisaged to start by 1st December 2012 and end 31st January 2013. Compliance to this temporal measure by cattle owners and herdsmen is therefore considered to be very urgent and crucial.

The resurgence of CBPP in The Gambia poses a serious threat to the entire national cattle herds which could have disastrous consequences on food and nutrition security and peoples' livelihoods and could have a significant negative impact on the national economy. Our Veterinary Services is not adequately equipped to deal with this major animal health emergency and the resources urgently needed are beyond what the national capability can guarantee.

Accordingly, a national Animal Health Emergency is declared to seek support from our friends and developing partners and other stakeholders to effectively address the situation.

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