Africa, Development & Aid, Food and Agriculture, Headlines, Health

COTE D’IVOIRE: A Shot in the Arm for the Northern Livestock Sector

Aly Ouattara

KORHOGO, Northern Côte d'Ivoire, Jun 27 2007 (IPS) - As Côte d’Ivoire tries to pick up the pieces after five years of civil war, efforts are getting underway to deal with a notable casualty of the conflict: the health of livestock in the north, formerly under rebel control.

Starting next month and ending January 2009, about three million stock animals will be vaccinated by authorities, with financial assistance from the European Union. During the war, government controls for maintaining the care of farm animals in northern Côte d’Ivoire collapsed – while much of the equipment used in these controls was destroyed. This led to a decline in the health of livestock, and a knock-on effect concerning the wellbeing of communities.

“Today, there is no assurance that the livestock produced or consumed in the north is of good quality. However, people eat it, in large part” said Bakary Cissé, a veterinarian at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation who is responsible for implementing the project.

The livestock market outside the northern town of Korhogo, called a “Garbal” in the local Peule language, serves as an illustration of how badly things have gone awry.

Once known for its lively character, the market is today just a shadow of its former self, and the nearby municipal area where livestock is kept en route to market, half empty. Those animals which are there, are skeletal.

“The animals are suffering from peri-pneumonia,” said Cissé, explaining that this is a contagious and fatal bovine lung disease that is transmitted from one animal to another, but also from animal to man, like tuberculosis, brucellosis and anthrax.

Brucellosis, also known as undulant fever or Malta fever, is a bacterial disease that brings on a number of ailments – including a fever that rises and falls (or undulates). Anthrax, a potentially deadly illness, is also caused by bacteria. It can attack the lungs, intestines and nervous system.

“These illnesses are killing more and more livestock, and present a serious, permanent risk for the population,” Cissé told IPS, noting that the loss of animals could also compromise food security in the north over the long term.

“Brucellosis amongst animals results in the abortion of foetuses in the females during the third or fourth month before birth. Herdsmen, who are in permanent contact with the animals, often have sexual difficulties,” he said.

“Worse, their wives experience spontaneous abortions,” Cissé added, noting that occurred as a result of the “consumption of milk and meat from an animal that has not been well cooked”.

“As for cases of tuberculosis, they are caused by drinking fresh cow’s milk,” he observed, in reference to the consumption of unpasteurised milk.

Dieudonné Coulibaly, a doctor at Ferkessédougou Central Hospital, in the north, told IPS that the facility always advised people to boil milk before drinking it.

“But, we have…often noted that people drink it while it is fresh (unpasteurised)…under the pretext of preserving its flavour. This practice causes them to contract tuberculosis. The tuberculosis patients that we receive at the hospital are normally Peuls.” (Members of the Peul ethnic group are traditionally stock farmers.)

Moussa Diallo, a stock farmer at Kaouara in the far north, says he has tried to care for his livestock during Côte d’Ivoire’s political crisis with the help of veterinary medicines bought at Bobo-Dioulasso and Ouagadougou, in neighbouring Burkina Faso.

“Thanks to these products, said to be counterfeit – some of which are sold here – I did not have deaths in my herds,” he told IPS.

Daouda Coulibaly, however, had a far less positive experience.

“During the five years of war, we have lost a great many cattle and sheep at Toumoukoro and Zanatinvogo (in the Korhogo region) because of counterfeit medicines bought in the area, (that were) often…impure and poisonous,” said the stock breeder, who is also president of the Management Committee of Bovine and Ovine Commercial Organisations in Korhogo.

“As the country was divided in two, we could not obtain veterinary medicines from Abidjan (the economic capital). We were obliged to buy products found in the area, whatever the origin and quality (of these goods).”

The 122 million dollar vaccination initiative will hopefully relieve Coulibaly – and many others – of the need to experiment with dubious drugs.

Côte d’Ivoire was split into a rebel-held north and government-controlled south after a failed coup on Sep. 19, 2002 – with rebels accusing government of marginalising people in the north, and residents of foreign extraction.

After a number of unsuccessful attempts at peace, an accord was signed in the Burkinabé capital of Ouagadougou Mar. 4.

Rebel leader Guillaume Soro has been named prime minister of a power-sharing government, and a United Nations buffer zone between north and south dismantled. Disarmament is also said to have got underway.

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