Nqobile Tshili Chronicle Correspondent
VILLAGERS in Umzingwane District in Matabeleland South whose cattle are infected with the anthrax bacteria have appealed to the government to provide them with vaccines to treat the beasts as they fear losing more livestock. By Tuesday afternoon, 56 villagers had been treated for the disease, since it broke out last week.
Tests on a Bulawayo nurse suspected to have contracted anthrax are still inconclusive. Villagers yesterday said they are yet to receive government aid. They said since the outbreak officials from veterinary department only came to inform them not to eat meat from affected cattle.
Khowo Ncube who has lost three beasts said it was painful that their source of livelihood was being threatened yet no one seemed to care. “We’re paying taxes to the veterinary department. Where are they? They are not assisting us in dealing with this problem. We pay $2 per head but we’re not receiving any service. It’s like paying for medical care without receiving medication,” said Ncube.
He said it was unbearable to be told to bury animals after investing a lot of money on tending them. “I’ve lost three head of cattle, you say a beast costs $400 but it actually costs $700. Calculate how much I’ve lost. It’s like someone stealing away from me. The veterinary is not assisting us. What is their purpose then?” he said.
Ncube’s situation is even worse because two of his children were hospitalised after being infected by the bacteria. Another villager Sichelesile Ndlovu said she lost two beasts.
“The other one died last week on Wednesday and another the following day. So we didn’t know what was affecting our cattle as they were very fit. We skinned the carcass and ate the meat. We even sold it to other villagers,” said Ndlovu.
She said anthrax has seriously affected their farming activities as most of the beasts that got infected were used for ploughing their fields. The village head Sterling Dube said: “We’re still counting our losses. We fear losing more cattle to this bacteria. Yesterday, another beast died and we don’t know how to deal with the situation,” said Dube.
He said about a week ago villagers met with officials from veterinary department who urged them not to eat infected meat.
“We were eating the meat until some officials from veterinary department coming from Gwanda advised us not to eat meat from animals who die through anthrax. We have resorted to burying the carcasses of infected cattle. Right now if we see anyone skinning the animals we report them to the police,” said Dube.
Meanwhile, the government has introduced three check points to curb transportation of infected meat Umzingwane district to other districts and provinces. Matabeleland South acting provincial veterinary officer Dr Mbuso Moyo said three check points to stop infected meat from leaving the area had been established at Muchbinding, Mbalabala and about 10km from Gwanda.
“Veterinary officers and police officers are manning the check points. We will inspect animal products with the risk of spreading the disease and they will be confiscated especially those coming from Umzingwane,” said Dr Moyo.
A total of 56 people have been recorded to be infected with the anthrax bacteria. Of the 56 three of them under the age of five, 15 children aged between five and 14 and 38 people whose ages are above 15 years of age being affected by the disease.
Bulawayo City Council senior public relations officer Nesisa Mpofu yesterday said tests that were done on a patient who was hospitalised at United Bulawayo Hospitals have come negative.
“Swab results from the United Bulawayo Hospitals patient were negative for anthrax, but blood culture results are pending. This does not exclude anthrax as not all cases will have a positive culture result,” said Mpofu.