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HEALTH-INDONESIA: Poultry Ban Hits Jakarta Residents Hard

Sonny Inbaraj

JAKARTA, Feb 22 2007 (IPS) - A ban on backyard poultry, ordered earlier this month to contain the spread of the bird flu virus, has hit many of the Indonesian capital’s 12 million residents hard since they depend on keeping chickens and ducks for a living.

A ban on backyard poultry, ordered earlier this month to contain the spread of the bird flu virus, has hit many of the Indonesian capital’s 12 million residents hard since they depend on keeping chickens and ducks for a living.

In the South Jakarta suburb of Cipulir, Nurhayati – or Ibu Yati as she likes to be called – said she has been forced to look for other means to supplement her household income because of the backyard poultry ban. She now cleans and packs bean sprouts in one-kg packets, earning 2,000 rupiahs (22 US cents) for every packet she sends to the market.

”It’s long and tedious work and I’ll be lucky if I can pack at least four plastic bags a day,’’ the mother of six told IPS. ‘’I miss my chickens,’’ she lamented.

Ibu Yati’s 20 odd chickens used to earn her about 25,000 rupiahs (2.75 US dollars) a day in eggs. ‘’Occasionally I’ll sell a chicken or two and get 60,000 to 70,000 rupiahs (6.60 to 7.70 U.S. dollars) for each- that’ll help pay my children’s school expenses,’’ adding that the money made ends meet because her husband earned very little as an ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver.

Before the ban was enforced, Ibu Yati gave her chickens away to friends. ‘’I couldn’t bear the thought that they would be killed by strangers. I’d rather give them away free of charge,’’ she said pointing to the empty cages at the back of her house.


Jakarta is on the front line in the fight against bird flu, that according to WHO figures has killed 63 Indonesians to date – the highest in the world. The citywide ban on backyard poultry that came into effect on Feb. 1 gives Jakarta health officials the right to carry out door-to-door checks and cull poultry with no compensation paid to their owners. The ban covers chickens, ducks, swans, pigeons and quails.

With a high population density and an area covering 18,000 square kilometres, efforts to immediately curb the spread of the H5N1 virus that is responsible for bird flu or avian influenza is very necessary, Central Jakarta Mayor Muhayat said in a statement made available to the media.

‘’Today bird flu infection has nearly reached the third stage, namely from poultry to people. Jakarta will face a big disaster if bird flu infection is in its fourth stage, namely, from humans to humans,’’ he added.

World health officials indicate the H5N1 avian influenza virus may touch off a lethal pandemic capable of killing millions if it mutates to become as infectious to humans as seasonal flu.

But Nursamaha, a mother of four, has decided to defy the poultry ban out of desperation.

‘’Days before the ban came into effect I sold all my 20 chickens out of fear that they will be killed by the authorities,’’ she said in an interview at her residence in the South Jakarta suburb of Petukangan Selatan.

‘’But two weeks later, I’m starting to experience hardship. I used to get about 35,000 rupiahs (3.86 U.S. dollars) daily selling eggs. But now it’s all gone,’’ she added. ‘’That money was used for my family’s daily expenses. Now I’m really finding it so difficult, so much so that I have to borrow money from the neighbours just to get by for the day.’’

‘’My husband only works periodically doing odd jobs because he’s sick and our only source of income is from our backyard chickens,’’ she said.

That has prompted Nursamaha to bite the bullet and defy the ban.

‘’Just a couple of days ago I bought seven free-range chickens to keep in my backyard. I can’t bear to see the empty cages and moreover my family needs to eat. My youngest daughter is only two,’’ Nursamaha stated emphatically.

For many Jakarta residents keeping a few chickens in their backyard is a way of life, said PM Laksono, a sociologist at Indonesia’s Gajah Mada University in Yogyakarta.

‘’They provide a kind of nutritional safety net for when things get tough, or a way to earn a little extra money for many families,’’ he told IPS in a phone interview. ‘’For the poorest families, the money from selling poultry or eggs pays for basic costs like school fees.’’

But the deep-rooted tradition of Indonesians living near their poultry is a cause of strong concern for Dr I Nyoman Kandun, director general of communicable diseases at the Health Ministry. ‘’In stopping the spread of the avian influenza virus from birds to humans, our message is still the same: keep poultry as far away as possible from people and homes,’’ he said.

The ban on raising poultry in the city and its suburbs has also spooked many residents to lay off eating chicken.

Thata Sutardi, in the East Jakarta suburb of Jatinegara, said since the announcement of the ban she and her children have not set their eyes on poultry meat.

‘’Chicken in Jakarta have bird flu and for that reason people are not allowed to keep them,’’ she said.

When reminded that well-cooked chicken is safe to eat, she replied: ‘’I do not trust that. I’m still afraid.’’

Thata said the protein intake of her five children now consists of tempeh (Indonesian version of fermented tofu) and salted fish.

‘’My youngest child is only four and I don’t want him falling sick. That’s why I don’t feed my kids chicken,’’ she said sternly.

But the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is deeply worried about this sudden change in the diet of Jakarta residents.

‘’FAO is concerned about the impact that the citywide ban on poultry in Jakarta may have on the nutritional needs of the city’s residents,’’ said James McGrane, FAO team leader of the avian influenza control programme in Indonesia, in a statement.

‘’People should not abandon a valuable source of nutrition just because they have been forbidden to raise poultry of their own. Healthy poultry is perfectly safe if simple hygiene procedures are followed,’’ he added.

 
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HEALTH-INDONESIA: Poultry Ban Hits Jakarta Residents Hard

Sonny Inbaraj

JAKARTA, Feb 22 2007 (IPS) - A ban on backyard poultry, ordered earlier this month to contain the spread of the bird flu virus, has hit many of the Indonesian capital’s 12 million residents hard since they depend on keeping chickens and ducks for a living.
(more…)

 
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