Wednesday, January 19, 2022

FMD continues to complicate relations in Ngami

Following numerous recorded cases of the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) re-infection in the Ngamiland area which residents believe is a result of the nonexistence of decontamination points at Maun airport, the Ministry of Agriculture is still adamant that people coming from Zone 16 (the Okavango delta) through the airport are low risk carriers.

This was said by District Agriculture Coordinator Obed Mabutho at a full council meeting, where councilors requested to be given justification on how that can be possible, taking into consideration that buffaloes, which are transmitters of the disease are dominant in the delta.

Mabutho said at the meeting that besides decontamination not being done at the airport due to resource limitations at DVS, the chances of infection in the area are very low as the infection probability is even below 1%.The issue at hand has also been debated at various kgotla meetings, where at one point the Director of Veterinary Services Dr Letlhogile Modisa also said Batawana and any other concerned people should do away with the mounting fear of the possibility of infection through individual people from the delta.

“I still maintain that Maun airport is not a threat. I agree with you though that Zone 16 is a high risk area, with a buffalo population of plus/minus 1000 but that does not make people from there high risk carriers. You might not agree with me, but that is how we currently see it, and so deploying our staff there will also take time because like I said earlier, we are thin on the ground and not well resourced”.

However, Mabutho’s response was seen as lame because the expectation from DVS is that people going out of Maun from either side should pass through decontamination points, even those coming by road from the delta. The concern from councilors then was how should people who have never gone near areas considered to be at risk be seen as a threat when there has not been any direct contact with buffaloes.

Councilors also demanded to know why up to this point the buffalo fence has not been repaired in some areas, because now there is a lot of free movement of livestock going into the delta and mixing with buffaloes, only to come back after grazing and re-infect other livestock. They also wanted to know about the fate of the many houses which were built for veterinary patrol teams at some areas in the Okavango district, which are now not used. The other concern was that of some officers who were deployed to man veterinary gates have since gone on transfer with no further replacements made by the department.

In response, Mabutho said the department is aware of some hard to reach areas which are also not accessible due to flooding along the buffalo fence, adding those which were reachable have been maintained satisfactorily using departmental staff as well as extra mural staff from Maun Prisons. He added that the latest surveillance by plane has shown that the maintained portions are still intact. He said much as they are aware that veterinary cordon fences are in a bad state, a deliberate position has been taken to give priority to the border and buffalo fences due to limited resources to curb transboundry disease incursion. On the issue of staff replacement, he said the department is not aware of such as they have recently deployed permanent staff at all of their gates.

“As for the un-utilized houses, the department has merged staff members from some of the camps due to shortage of transport to patrol and do daily maintenance of fences, but rest assured the camps have not been abandoned. The situation will return to normal, should resources be availed. We used to have close to 200 officers in the Shakawe extension area, but we have had a shortage of transport for a long time now as seventy-five of our fleet are currently grounded at CTO”.


Read this week's paper