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Rift Valley fever: paralyzed breeders

A disease called Rift Valley fever attacks cattle and sheep. She has appeared in Burundi since last month. The breeders are distraught and the population lives with fear in their stomachs. The Ministry of the Environment, Livestock and Agriculture wants to be reassuring.

From the roundabout commonly called “chanic” in Buringa, vehicles loaded with milk circulate. Leaving the RN5 (the road linking Bujumbura and Cibitoke province) for the one leading to the stables of Buringa, we are greeted by suffocating dust. The sun is very strong.

Tuesday, May 24, it is 11:30 a.m. In Buringa, an area that is home to a large livestock population in Burundi, bicycles loaded with fodder are noticed in large numbers, the shepherds are seated next to the stables of their cows and discuss among themselves.

Breeders and shepherds live with fear in their stomachs. They fear huge loss of income due to this disease and of being infected by it.

“There can be no lack of fear because the disease has already spread in our province. We ask veterinarians to consult our cows in order to act before it is too late” , insists one of the breeders.

A shepherd, next to him, added: “We heard that there are already reported cases in the stables very close to the Gikoma river, it is not far from here that explains our fear. We stand to lose a lot if once this disease comes to our stables. »

Worst of all, he adds, even people can be infected with this disease. “We are trying to follow the measures taken by the Ministry of Livestock, but if possible they will bring us vaccines as soon as possible”.

As of May 24, 8 provinces out of 18 provinces have already recorded at least one case of Rift Valley fever. The most affected are Kirundo, Muyinga and Ngozi with 194 cases, 83 cases and 164 cases, respectively. 113 cattle had already been carried away by this disease.

All-round repercussions

Besides butchers who no longer have oxen for slaughter, milk sellers in Bujumbura say they no longer sell the same quantity and fear not being able to pay the rents.

JB, one of the beef sellers who procure the animals from the interior of the country to resell the meat to the slaughterhouse in Bujumbura, says: “The number of cows slaughtered was already reduced by the policy of permanent stabling. Currently, we only get our supplies from the south of the country, which can aggravate the situation by further driving up the price of meat.”

According to him, they have already felt the effects of the disease, as the gain they were receiving split in half. “Before, I bought in the markets of the north as well as those of the south. But currently, all the cow sellers buy from the southern markets only and this reduces our gain”.

As for Alice N., a milk seller in the Rohero district of the Mukaza commune, she says that customers are coming in dribs and drabs. “They told us it was because of cow disease.”

Another milk seller from the Bwiza district of Mukaza commune no longer knows where to go: “Before, I sold at least 40 liters a day, but now I can’t manage to sell even 20 liters. Which gives me half the money I was earning before.”

However, he points out, I heard on the radio that if the milk is well heated, there is no problem. “I don’t know why customers are not reassured. Maybe we need more awareness.”

The fear of disease

Desperate parents fear that children who consume the milk may be affected by this disease if they continue to consume the milk.

“We have heard via social networks that this disease even affects people, if you consume the meat or milk of a sick cow” , fears Jeanne M., a young mother from the Ngagara zone, Ntahangwa commune.

According to the inhabitants of this area, some people have already stopped consuming meat and milk. “We first suspended the consumption of beef and dumplings. We prepare a sauce either of aubergine or Ndagala” , says one of the servants we met.

Another mother from the Cibitoke area says that she has given up cow’s milk for her 8-month-old child and assures us that she uses powdered milk despite its high cost compared to cow’s milk.

The Ministry of Livestock reassures

Desiré Ntakirutimana, director of animal health at the Ministry of the Environment, Agriculture and Livestock, confirms that, since April, this disease called “Rift Valley fever” has broken out.

According to him, the most affected provinces are Kirundo, Muyinga and Ngozi. “Minimal cases are observed in other provinces, such as Karusi, Cibitoke, Kayanza, Bujumbura and Makamba” , he adds.

Symptoms commonly observed in infected cows include high temperature, abortion, epistaxis (bleeding from the nose) and redness of the eyes, among others.

Mr. Ntakirutimana explains that the disease is generally vector-borne (the transmission of viruses or bacteria by a vector), through the bites of different insects. “But it can also be transmitted through contact with the infected animal,” he says.

This framework of the Ministry of Livestock invites the population to remain calm and to respect the instructions of the ministry, in particular the movement of cattle, the trade and the slaughter of animals in the provinces already affected to avoid the spread of the disease. “Other measures will be taken, depending on the evolution of the situation”.

“The supervisory ministry has drawn up an action plan for the control of the disease where we are planning an awareness campaign on this disease for the population and also vaccination. We are still looking for ways to curb this disease,” he reveals.

This trained epidemiologist reassures the population that there are drugs that have proven effective. He calls on the population to inform veterinarians as soon as one of the symptoms of this disease appears.

Source: IWACU Burundi