The Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), Frank Tumwebaze, has revealed that the government is in the process of procuring vaccines to vaccinate cattle against the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) that has ravaged the cattle corridor in the country.
At least 36 Districts mostly known for cattle keeping have been placed under quarantine, stopping the movement of cattle and selling of beef because of the escalating spread of the FMD. The letter instituting the quarantine was issued by Maj Gen David Kyomukama, Permanent Secretary of MAAIF.
The Districts under the ongoing quarantine are Budaka, Bukedea, Bukomansimbi, Bunyangabu, Butaleja, Fortportal City, Gomba, Ibanda, Isingiro, Kabarole, Kassanda and Kayunga. Others are; Kazo, Kiboga, Kibuku, Kiruhura, Kumi, Kyankwanzi, Kyegegwa, Kyotera, Luuka, Lwengo, Lyantonde, Mbarara, Mbarara City, Mityana, Mpigi, Mubende, Nakaseke, Nakasongola, Naminsindwa, Ngora, Ntungamo, Rakai, Rwampara and Sembabule.
Meanwhile, veterinary experts from the Ministry are carrying out surveillance in several other Districts in western, eastern, central and northern regions.
Because of the announced quarantine, deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa last week raised the concern over the FMD. After drawing support from legislators mostly representing the constituents who are cattle keepers, Tayebwa directed Minister Tumwebaze to present a statement on the Government’s interventions to control the FMD outbreak.
Tumwebaze informed Parliament that although the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) is on the right trajectory in developing vaccines from within the country, the Government needs to procure vaccines with immediate effect because the local remedy will take some time.
In the next one or two months, we expect to receive and dispatch 2.3 million doses of the vaccine to these affected and susceptible Districts for ring vaccination scale-up. I will again brief Parliament perhaps in the next month on the new policy positions Cabinet will have taken on the matter, said Tumwebaze.
Allow me to also inform you that NARO has started the process of formulating and developing our own FMD vaccine. These scientists have so far formulated two monovalent (a combination of two serotypes of FMD virus) FDM candidate vaccines and are due for evaluation and further scrutiny by the country’s regulatory bodies, he added.
The Minister revealed if the current processes, including trials at NARO become successful, the Government will further support the entity to produce for mass rollout as is happening with the anti-tick vaccine.
Currently, the Government has embarked on ring vaccination around the affected areas, animal movement control using checkpoints, closure of livestock markets, and, institution of quarantine measures.
At least 44 million animals, including cattle, sheep, goats and pigs, are requiring vaccination against the FMD hence a need for 88 million doses for the bi-annual exercise. The country, therefore, according to the Minister, needs at least $176 million (about UGX 668.6 billion) for the task since each dose costs $2 (about UGX 7,598).
Responding to earlier concerns by lawmakers on how the disease spread to various districts despite the available measures, Tumwebaze attributed it to the lack of cooperation and compliance among the farmers, cattle traders and district officials responsible for issuing animal movement permits.
Quite often, there is a clash and sometimes connivance between local political leaders, enforcement personnel and veterinary officers to flout these measures. This is how and why the disease further spreads and the quarantine duration inevitably gets prolonged, the Minister explained.
To control the disease in the medium term, Tumwebaze told Parliament that MAAIF will seek a supplementary budget to procure at least more than 10 million doses to cover all the affected and high-risk Districts and support District Veterinary Officials with disease surveillance tools, means of transport, facilitation and more personnel.
Any escalation of the FMD outbreak in Uganda will affect the animal industry in neighbouring countries where cattle keeping is done. Uganda’s neighbours, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania have many communities whose economic activity is cattle keeping, and there is fear that Ugandan animals and their products may be banned in the neighbouring countries.
We are also working with our neighbours in Tanzania to collaborate in the fight against FMD since it is a transboundary disease. The collaboration focuses on areas of synchronisation of vaccination calendars as well as coordination between our veterinary authorities in the clearance of animal movement and disease surveillance across the border, stated Tumwebaze.
MPs Speak Out
Speaking on Wednesday, Kazo County legislator, Dan Kimosho suggested that farmers who have already lost animals to the disease need to be compensated by the government, which he accused of failing to protect the livestock.
There are people who have loans. What hurts me most is that the Commissioner issuing this (Quarantine) is seated in Entebbe (MAAIF headquarters), and from the time of the outbreak, no team has stepped foot in the field. When we talk about total quarantine, we mean people losing money. It is the responsibility of the Government to vaccinate these animals; if it fails, there is a need for compensation, said Kimosho.
Wilson Kajwengye, MP for Nyabushozi County, on Thursday, wondered why farmers in Uganda are still suffering from animal diseases when the current regime has been recognised internationally for eradicating human disease. He said that the solution for FMD is to ensure sufficient vaccines are in stock in order to save farmers from making losses.
This Government of NRM (National Resistance Movement) has eradicated diseases, why on earth can we fail to eradicate FMD? Our farmers buy expensive vaccines on their own. They even buy injectables, which are more expensive than the FMD vaccines. Ring vaccination is a completely lazy policy; it came after the outbreak. So, why do we wait for the outbreak and then we go for vaccination? asked Kajwengye.
Legislators from the cattle corridor raised a concern about the expected struggles the parents are going through in raising school fees as the official school calendar opens on Monday, 5th February 2023, because the livestock markets have been closed.
Jovance Twinobusingye, Kiruhura District Woman MP, rallied her colleagues to support the MAAIF supplementary budget for procurement of vaccines when it is finally tabled in Parliament because the farmers are out of options.
Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa informed Parliament that during his tour of NARO in November last year, he noted the progress the scientists are making towards the development of livestock vaccines. He said there is a need for the House to support NARO by appropriating enough funds to support the research and innovation processes.
I feel that every month I should visit NARO; they are doing a fantastic job. These are our professionals who do not know about our politics, they know about technical work. The only thing they need is our support because if we can commercialise what they are doing, you will find out that they are able to bring down the cost of these vaccines but also [ensure] steady supply, said Tayebwa.
While leading the deputy Speaker on a guided tour of the facilities, Dr Swadiq Mugerwa, NARO’s Deputy Director General of Research Coordination, revealed that significant work had been done in the development of the Anti-tick vaccine which will come to the delight of the cattle keepers.
He also said that vaccines for foot and mouth disease, and African swine fever are going to be developed within the UGX 60 billion government of Uganda-funded facility, whose construction and equipping will be completed by April next year.