JOHANNESBURG, 11 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - About half of Southern Africa's 47 million cattle are under threat from transboundary livestock diseases, despite improvements in regional surveillance and management, a new study warns.
'Livestock, Food and Agricultural Statistics' was launched by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) secretariat in Botswana last month.
The report examined regional livestock disease trends and found that the major threats to livestock in the region were foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia (CBPP); four countries were hit by severe flare-ups of CBPP in 2003.
Tanzania experienced 20 CBPP outbreaks, resulting 125 cattle deaths, while Zambia recorded 17 eruptions affecting 1,165 cattle. Angola and Namibia also suffered outbreaks of the disease in areas outside CBPP quarantine boundaries.
Foot-and-mouth disease was much more widespread in 2003/2004, reaching Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa.
The report stressed that recurrences as well as new outbreaks of diseases were still taking place, mainly as a result of uncontrolled transboundary cattle movement.
According to Parks and Wildlife disease surveillance officers in Botswana, there was a brisk trade in live cattle, goats and donkeys between communities living along the common border with Zimbabwe. Illegal cross-border cattle trafficking had slowed down after completion of an electric fence, which the authorities in Gaborone said was aimed at reducing the entry and spread of animal diseases from Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park.
But Zimbabwe's agriculture minister, Joseph Made, told IRIN that although the country was experiencing serious outbreaks of FMD, anthrax and rabies, he was not aware that it was acting as a conduit for animal diseases to other countries. He said they were making great efforts to contain the problem, but faced a shortage of funds for buying the necessary vaccines.
"Zimbabwe treats only those diseases within its boundaries. I do not know where the diseases go from here, but we are still doing all we can to control what we have in our territory," Made noted.
However, the problem does not only lie with Zimbabwe and its inability to contain eruptions of animal diseases.
"People from Botswana buy cheap domestic stock from Zambia and Zimbabwe and drive them across the border without considering quarantine boundaries. In that way CBPP, anthrax and FMD have been brought into northern Botswana," said one surveillance officer.
"From Chobe National Park in Botswana it is much easier for big game like buffalo to cross into Linyanti National Park in Northern Namibia. A disease can be passed down from Zambia to Botswana and Namibia via Zimbabwe - that's how porous and vulnerable SADC boundaries are," he commented.
Transboundary stock theft between communities in northern Zimbabwe and their counterparts in southern Zambia also continued to fuel the spread of animal diseases.
[This Item is Delivered to the "Africa-English" Service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information, free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: IRIN@ocha.unon.org or Web: http://www.irinnews.org . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Reposting by commercial sites requires written IRIN permission.]
Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2005