Elita Chikwati, Harare Bureau
The Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services is experiencing challenges in vaccinating cattle for Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) due to shortage of vaccines.
The department’s principal director, Dr Unesu Ushewokunze Obatolu, on Wednesday said supplies of vaccines for the past two years had been inconsistent.
“This means that the virus has spread unchecked in the affected provinces of Midlands, Manicaland (south), Masvingo, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South,” she said.
“We have active clinical infections going on in Chipinge South, Mwenezi, Chivi and Chiredzi. These are in our regular vaccination areas, which have gone for many months without regular vaccine cover.”
Dr Ushewokunze Obatolu said in a global context, Zimbabwe was an FMD infected country, without FMD free zones.
“This is a situation we must work very hard to come out of through systematic reinforcement of Veterinary Services by re-capacitation, infrastructural and budgetary support,” she said.
Dr Ushewokunze Obatolu said the department was faced with challenges, including a veterinary doctor establishment of less than 30 percent strength, with very poor coverage, weak logistical and financial support given the economic situation and weakened technical capacity.
“Other challenges include abuse of police clearance to effect livestock movement, vandalism of veterinary infrastructure including game and cattle fences and absence of physical boundaries in many communal areas,” she said.
Ineffective animal identification mechanisms and non-co-operation by wildlife conservancy operators is also affecting FMD control measures.
Control of the disease depends on the effectiveness of movement controls on livestock, the effectiveness of veterinary services in rapidly detecting and controlling outbreaks at their source through quarantine and vaccination of exposed and in-contact animals and the support that can be received from stakeholders.
“These three elements have been compromised since the loss of FMD control zones due to loss of boundary fences on wildlife areas and cattle farming areas,” said Dr Ushewokunze Obatolu.