Curtailing Bird Flu

AT a time the nation is consolidating on a worthy return to commercial farming, a serious temptation has emerged. As at Wednesday, January 28, the recently reported H5N1 Influenza Virus commonly referred to as ‘Bird Flu’ has affected 39 farmers in 11 states in the country.
Already, 232,385 birds are said to have been affected, while 51,444 of them are said to have been killed since January 22 when the first case was reported in seven states.
Many farmers are panicking. While some of the farmers rushed to near-by eateries to dispose of healthy birds at give-away prices in anticipation of total loss in the event of contraction of the disease, some others are resorting to setting fire on surroundings to increase the temperature of the environment.
Already some farms have been destroyed in Delta and other affected states while health officials have taken over the management of sale points at various markets, particularly in Delta State to quarantine affected birds and areas.
It is not known if the destroyed birds in the affected farms to check the spread are among the 51,444 ones said to have been killed.
Naturally, when such a thing happens, people tend to panic but government is expected to act very fast given the nature of the spread. Most farmers are not trained on control measures. There is, therefore ,the tendency for them to get it wrong. With government leading in combating the disease, it is expected that some elements of ignorance and panic measures will be reduced.
A veterinary scientist said there is always bird flu during severe winter, but the scale of infection differs from region to region and from year to year. Unfortunately, most investors are not aware of trends in the business; neither do they consult experts for advice. It is, therefore, expected that preventive veterinary measures are taken as a proactive approach.
Like the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the country, there is the need for the government to create emergency centres across the federation. Veterinary scientists should be brought into the programme to enlarge the scope of operation. If Nigeria contained Ebola, she can also do well in handling bird flu outbreak even if the officiating ministries are different. In any case, it requires dedication and commitment like the doctors and Ministry of Health handled EVD case in the country. For the farmers who are not equipped with adequate knowledge of the business, government and cognate institutions are expected to set up education centres where even those who have the skill may be updated with timely information. Where skill acquisition centres already exist, information dissemination network among recipients is quite necessary to inform practitioners of expectations/forecast and trends in the business. If the business becomes organised like the stock market, bad situations may easily be controlled.
We should also be careful with as borders because some infections come across international borders.
However we commend the Federal Government which through its Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to have approved compensation for the affected farmers as announced recently by the Minister, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina. A total amount of N145.145 million is said to have been approved for payment to 39 affected farmers across the 11 states. The states, as announced, are Kano, Lagos, Ogun, Rivers, Delta, Edo Plateau, Gombe, Imo, Oyo and Jigawa States.
According to the minister, information have “actually (been) collected.” He explain act that the amount would cover only the farmers whose farms had been depopulated by the action of the government. It is expected that more farmers may be affected and further depopulation is expected. Government, is therefore, expected to collate further information to ensure that the disease does not continue to spread.
In as much as compensating victims is encouraging, government should ensure that the right farmers receive the payment. It is good that government has approved such amount to compensate the victims of depopulation, but the minister should ensure that the money gets to the right farmers.
There should be measures to stop the political farmers from hijacking the compensation as had been recorded over fertilizer distribution in the country. There have also been well projected programmes of the government to alleviate poverty in the country but unfortunately ended up in the hands unintended beneficiaries. Such sad diversion of good intentions and programmes must not be allowed to happen in this case.
While ensuring that the disease is stopped from spreading, projections as to how to prevent future cases is quite important