18 February 2013

Namibia: Rabies Cost Farmers Millions

Swakopmund — Farmers have lost an estimated 1 703 cattle and game valued at N$13 million to rabies during the period 2008 to 2012.

This came to light following a recent survey conducted by the chief veterinarian of the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, Dr Emmanuel Hikufe. Hikufe presented his findings last Monday during the opening of the three-week Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (FELTP) workshop currently underway in Swakopmund.

Hikufe said human and animal rabies is increasing every year. "This clearly indicates how ineffective the current control programmes are," he said. He explained that a significant number of dogs have rabies hence the high transmission rate of the disease to humans and wild animals.

"A large number of cattle and game, especially kudus, died of rabies during the period under review which resulted in a huge loss of income to farmers," he said. He went on to say that most human and dogs deaths due to rabies occurred in the northern communal area, especially the north-central regions.

According to Hikufe, children in the age group 0-16 are the most affected representing 83 percent of all deaths reported. He says the time has arrived to establish a national rabies committee comprised of all relevant stakeholders.

"Once the committee is established a more aggressive national rabies control strategy should be formulated and fully implemented to intensify public awareness about rabies," he said. He further noted that a strict unified policy should be developed to control stray dogs and an annual budget for rabies control activities should also be created.

"An, effective rabies control strategy will prevent deaths, especially among young children and prevent loss of livestock and income for farmers," he said.

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