AS foot and mouth disease continues to wreak havoc in the northern communal areas, most farmers are unable to take their livestock for vaccination because of a dire shortage of crush pens.
Most of the crush pens in the NCAs are in a dilapidated state and are hindering the vaccination of livestock. There are more than 2 000 crush pens in the NCAs stretching from Zambezi to Kunene region.
Kenneth Shoombe, the chief veterinarian in the north west sub-division disease control said most regions have a severe shortage of crush pens as many are in a dilapidated state and they urgently need to be renovated.
"There is hope that the country is now getting out of the financial problems which resulted in problems of procuring materials, and for the past five years we have not constructed new crush pens because we have been prioritising other areas. We have plans to construct a few crush pens in some areas.
"We have over 2 000 crush pens that need to be refurbished because many of them have reached the end of their lifespan."
Shoombe also said there is need to increase the number of crush pens to ease the distances farmers drive their animals for vaccination.
"Our policy has always been to reduce the distance from one crush pen to another starting from 20 to 10 kilometres and we are now at around five kilometres between crush pens.
"In some areas, the distance might be longer because of the density of animal herd and we might not put a crush pen there," Shoombe added.
He added that the total number of livestock within the NCAs has drastically dropped due to the drought over the past few years and the ongoing FMD outbreak.
Shoombe said Oshana region once had more than 160 000 cattle, but they dropped to about 71 000 that were brought to crush pens in the region.
"That tells us the number of animals in the region that has perished or been moved to other regions for grazing and they have not returned.
"Oshana does not have a quarantine facility and it is difficult to move animals to quarantine facilities in other regions. If land is made available in Oshana region for a quarantine facility, the ministry would be glad to set up such a facility," said Shoombe, adding that Oshana region has 160 animal crush pens.
The northern regions are currently under stringent control measures to prevent the spread of FMD.