Zimbabwe: Zim Owes Bots U.S.$3m for Vaccines

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28 January 2020

Zimbabwe owes Botswana close to US$3 million for vaccines it imported to control the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and other animal diseases.

Acting director of the Division of Veterinary Field Services Dr Wilmot Chikurunhe last week said his department urgently needed resources to complement the vaccine supply to prevent the resurgence of livestock diseases that have affected animal production in the country.

"Having made two payments in the last quarter of 2019, the department now owes Botswana Vaccine Institute US$2 823 394,33.

"Of this amount, US$1 057 458,98 is overdue from 2018, while US$1 765 935,35 is for vaccines supplied in the fourth quarter 2019 and this month," he said.

"Urgent need for resources to complement the vaccine supply, especially vehicles, fuel and subsistence allowances to make the programme a success still remains an appeal."

Zimbabwe has been unable to pay for its vaccines due to financial constraints.

The Botswana Vaccines Institute is the only manufacturer of vaccines in Southern Africa, and the Veterinary Field Services relies on the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) for foreign currency allocations to settle the debt.

Delays in the provision of foreign currency have led to a shortage of livestock vaccines, especially for cattle dipping and the vaccination of livestock across the country.

According to the latest update, the country has 617 000 doses of FMD vaccines that were expected to last till the end of March due to their short shelf life.

The division last received 221 000 doses last November.

The situation remains dire in many parts of the country where cattle have not dipped in many weeks due to the shortage of acaricide, resulting in a resurgence of diseases.

Livestock diseases were aggravated by the illegal movement of animals within and outside the country's borders.

Dr Chikurunhe said there was a general decline in the reported cases of anthrax outbreaks countrywide, thanks to prompt responses and awareness campaigns.

He said the media and localised farmer campaigns on cattle vaccinations have brought the situation to normalcy. Bikita District reported 54 cattle deaths, while four goats died from four dip tanks. Masvingo Province embarked on a vaccination campaign in the anthrax-affected areas. A total of 34 899 cattle were vaccinated during the week, 14 832 in Bikita District, 18 335 in Gutu District and 1 732 in Masvingo District.

Following the outbreak in Makonde District where 28 cattle died of anthrax two weeks ago, 20 687 cattle were vaccinated at the surrounding 17 dip tanks. More than 87 people have been hospitalised after eating meat from cattle affected by anthrax, while the disease has so far claimed more than 177 beasts.

Zimbabwe usually experiences anthrax outbreaks during the summer cropping season because rains wash away the top soil and expose spores that can remain dormant in the soil for over 40 years.

Botswana often tightens measures to prevent the spread of FMD into its territory along the border with Zimbabwe as part of efforts to protect its beef exports to the European Union (EU).

Access to European markets for Botswana is subject to stringent conditions that entail high levels of health for its animals.

Lack of resources, compounded by crippling sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by Britain and its Western allies has affected the provision of critical resources to the Division of Veterinary Field Services. This has led to lack of effective monitoring and animal disease surveillance as well as the vaccination of livestock in various parts of the country.

The failure to control FMD locally forced the EU to terminate beef exports.

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