“Bird flu in Yemen”:Government denies .. Parliament confesses [Archives:2005/896/Health]

November 21 2005

“There could be two or three cases of bird flu in the country'', Dr. Najeeb Saeed from the General Health and Population Committee told the parliament. This confession came in the fierce debate between the parliamentarians and the representatives of the health and agriculture ministries last Monday. Although Najeeb Saeed did not provide any evidence of the actual number of bird flu cases, he criticized limited resources to diagnose a possible infected bird.

Deputy minister of Public Health and Population, Mr. Bin Majed Al-Juneid, admitted that there are no specialized labs and hospitals to test the samples that have been collected from different rural areas. He said that the samples have been sent to World Health Organization (WHO) to be checked. However, there have been no confirmed cases of bird flu in Yemen so far. ” The cabinet has allocated 100 million YR for the purchase of vaccinations and to prepare specialized labs and hospitals for vain flu. The foreign aid for such preparations has amounted to US$ 160,000 ” he told the press. Dr. Mohamed Thabet Al-Asali, also from the General Health and Population Committee of the parliament, expressed his distrust of the government in dealing with the disease, and claimed that any funds allocated for “combating bird flu” would open up the opportunity for “embezzlement and corruption”. He asked how the government could deal with a possible outbreak, when it could not deal with treatable diseases such as malaria, that still exists across the country, in the past.

Al-Asali said there is a possibility of already having “a bird flu epidemic in the country in birds, if not in human, especially as Yemen has a long coastline and is a destination for migrant birds.”

Health expert and politician, Dr. Abdulkareem Shaiban, who left the parliament in protest after he was not allowed to speak, supported Al-Asali's view. He stated that the government would “declare a state of emergency if a minister or a prominent official falls ill to this fatal disease”, but would do little in the present situation.

“Yet there are no laboratories or chemical solutions to diagnose the disease, nor surplus medicines to deal with a potential outbreak. We continue to import chicken and eggs.”

He said that the government's strategy of “concealing facts about the spread of epidemic diseases” only contributed to increasing the disease's effect.

He said: “A clear example of consequences of this strategy is the outbreak of the Rift Valley Disease, which has killed more than 80 people in the last two weeks in Taiz province alone.”

Shaiban said the parliament have already dealt with cases of suspected bird flu, referring to a recent debate concerning poultry imports suspected of infection from China. According to him, the government has ordered the shipments return to their original place, since there was no ability to test those goods. That caused a huge loss to the traders.