Namibian veterinary authorities have confirmed an acute shortage of vaccine needed to contain the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the northern communal areas (NCAs). Three separate outbreaks of Africa’s most dreaded animal disease were recorded in the north last week.

Confirming the vaccine shortage, the acting chief veterinary officer of the Directory of Veterinary Services (DVS), Dr John Shoopala, said there was no reason to panic but described the shortage as serious.

“We (DVS) are urgently awaiting vaccine from the Botswana Vaccine Institute, the only manufacturer of FMD vaccine in the world. They informed us that they only have 30 000 doses of the vaccine available immediately whereas Namibia needs at least 250 000 doses just to do the initial vaccination in the affected areas,” he said.

A total clampdown on animals and animal products from the NCAs was ordered last week as a result of the outbreak of FMD in the Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions. The movement of animals from south of the veterinary cordon fence to the NCAs has also been suspended as well as movement of animals across the Namibian/Angolan border. Shoopala says the disease is under control for now as no new cases has been reported to extension officers and field workers in the affected areas but DVS is dealing with the outbreaks as a matter of life and death as FMD is the most contagious of all animal diseases.

“DVS is continuously conducting information meetings with communal farmers in the NCAs and this coming Saturday we will address producers from the Mangetti blocks at Ondangwa. The most important message now to farmers is not to move a single head of livestock because FMD is so contagious. “We managed to secure vaccine from Zambezi and Kavango regions to help us combat the disease and now we are waiting for more vaccine from Botswana, which should be arriving soon,” he confirmed.

This follows after the disease halted all operations at the Meatco Oshakati abattoir earlier this year and all exports to South Africa were banned due to the outbreak of FMD in Kavango East and Zambezi. The outbreak was detected by DVS on May 11 at the Ondama Yomunghete crush pen and on May 12 at the Okalupalona and Onehanga crush pens in the Ohangwena Region. A second outbreak was detected on May 13 at Okakango village in Oshikoto Region.

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