A shortage of foot-and-mouth vaccines is frustrating efforts to contain an outbreak of the highly contagious disease in Chipinge's Middle Sabi region where farmers risk incurring huge livestock losses.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development (Livestock) Cde Paddy Zhanda could neither confirm nor deny the outbreak reported in Chibuwe, Maronga and Kondo villages where unvaccinated livestock share grazing pastures with buffaloes straying from the Save Conservancy following the vandalism of the double line boundary fence.
"I am currently in Namibia on leave, and cannot comment on that," said Cde Zhanda.
Farmers in the affected areas are known for driving their animals to Save Conservancy in search of pastures, putting them in danger of contracting FMD, which is present in buffalo populations though the host animals do not show signs of it.
Buffaloe also stray into communal grazing pastures thereby infecting other animals in and outside the conservancy.
There are nearly 3 000 buffaloes in the Save Conservancy, and 300 are wreaking havoc in Middle Sabi, exposing the nearly 70 000 cattle in surrounding farmlands and communities to serious danger.
The situation has also been compounded by the fact that farmers are not vaccinating their animals.
Provincial Veterinary Officer for Manicaland Dr Charles Guri was also tight lipped over the outbreak despite evidence that animal health inspectors, with assistance of police, have been instructed to mount roadblocks barring animal movements from the red zone.
Police and veterinary officials from Chipinge have also stopped issuing livestock movement permits and carcass movement permits.
The Herald understands that by yesterday the police and veterinary officials mounted road blocks at Tanganda and Sakuinje Junction where vehicle tyres were being sterilised and all kinds of animal meat was being confiscated and burnt.
"Cattle from Middle Sabi areas like Chibuwe and Maronga were affected starting a fortnight ago, and by last Friday the disease had spread to Kondo. The major hic up is the shortage of foot-and-mouth vaccines. The vaccines are in short supply in the country and we are only restricting livestock movement.
"We have quarantined livestock from this district (Chipinge) and all livestock movements have been suspended. No permits will be issued either by police or veterinary department and road blocks barring the movement of cattle, goats or any other animal will remain in force until the situation is under control," said a source in Chipinge.
The highly contagious FMD was reported a fortnight ago after 16 cattle were affected at Taguta Farm in Middle Sabi.
Carrier buffaloe or infected animals from the redline area are moving into other parts of the community where animals have not been vaccinated against FMD.
FMD is very contagious and spreads rapidly among animals, making it difficult to control, even by using vaccines.
Chipinge District Civil Protection Unit chairperson, Mr William Mashava implored farmers to observe livestock movement restrictions to minimize the spread of the disease from the red zone area to other parts of the country.
FMD is caused by a germ called a virus, found in all body secretions of infected buffaloe, making the situation in Middle Sabi a breeding ground for disaster.
The disease is called foot-and-mouth disease because sick animals mostly get sores on their feet and in their mouths. They may show signs like blisters that are of different sizes and filled with fluid in the mouth, mostly on the tongue.
The blisters burst open and leave raw sores, which are usually painful such that the animals may not eat.