Foot-and-Mouth Disease Eats Away Economic Resources [Archives:2001/13/Health]

March 26 2001

Yasser M. Ahmad
Yemen Times
Last week’s front-page article raised a lot of concern among all of Yemen and foreign communities of the economic effects that could follow from foot-and-mouth disease beginning to spread all over the western coast of Yemen. Due to the dimensions of this problem, Yemen Times sent a group of journalists to the effected areas to investigate more thoroughly and provide a complete report of the situation.
The results were staggering!
More than 50 cases were reported in Hodeidah and Hajja governorates, specifically on the Tihama coast, Al-Makhaleef, Qufl Shammar, Abs, Haradh, Aslam, and western village of Al-Mahabisha. Several livestock animals have died, while others are infected and could t spread the disease.
The journalists visited areas within a 6-hour drive from Hodeidah . But all these areas had virtually no official representation. The operating rooms where cases of Rift Valley Fever cases were treated in Abs were all closed. The Abs region is one of the areas where the disease was evident everywhere. The official office concerning livestock diseases was the Veterinary Medicine Union Center, which unfortunately had no employees at 10:30 am with the exception of a guard. The villagers were quite upset and disappointed for the irresponsible action. However, the villagers are partly to blame because of not reporting the foot-and-mouth cases that emerge everyday. The excuse for that may be because of their unawareness along with their frustration of the usual ignorance of the authorities. Part of the blame is also on the official media, mainly TV and radio in the Al-Mikhaleef province


In the Mikhlaf Area of Qufl Shammar in Hajja Governorate, YT met with Daol Ali Zaidan, one of the farmers in the area. Zaidan started his complaint by saying that he lost 10 of his livestock during the last two months. One asked why he didn’t notify the authorities when the symptoms of the disease appeared. He said that he had done so in the past and got no response from the authorities, which are mostly located too far away to be reached easily. Even when a governmental employee comes to inspect the conditions of the disease, the employee demands payment for the transportation and his work. He claimed that he once brought a veteran to his farm to help in easing the giving of birth of one his cows, but the employee took 6,000 for his work, and 1,500 for transportation. Zaidan complains of the limited disease eradication and awareness campaigns.
He stated, “We used to hear of the emergence of the foot-and-mouth disease in Europe on TV and Radio, but when we looked at the very same symptoms of the disease on our livestock, we felt helpless. The disease spread quickly and resulted in the suffering of many of the livestock owners. For example, some who had 20 animals ended up with only 5”.

When asked whether this disease may be that of the Rift Valley or another disease he said, “We know the symptoms of different diseases and I can assure you that this disease has not been identified before. You can see that the symptoms are all of the foot-and-mouth disease.” He later showed infected animals and it was obvious that his animals had symptoms identical to the symptoms of the foot-and-mouth disease.
In the same area, Ahmed Ali Abdo told YT that his calf that was only born 15 days ago was infected and blisters on his lips, tongue and soft tissues caused him severe pain which prevented him from being breastfeed by his mother for the 2 days. Due to Abdo’s economic conditions, he was not able to reach the veterinarians to diagnose and treat the animal.
Ibrahim Shu’I Khilafa from Al-Qawari area in Hajja Governorate explained the symptoms of the disease that spread in his farm. “The symptoms of this strange disease are quite different from those of any other disease including the Rift Valley Fever disease. All the symptoms that appeared seemed identical to the foot-and-mouth disease including the signs of diarrhea and the weakening of the animals along with the blisters and tumors that appear in the mouth, tongue, and feet of the animal. We did in fact contact the authorities, which ignored our inquiries leading to more desperation and suffering. Even if there is to be a positive response from the authorities, it includes the condition of sending the diseased animals to the center, which is too far from the villages requiring more than 6,000 for transportation. The limited economic resources along with the lack of awareness among the villagers were main factors behind the spread of the disease.” Ibrahim said.
Here we have publish some of the names and statistics regarding the damage from foot-and-mouth disease for some villagers.
Rafaat Al-Mikhlaf Village in Qufl Shammar in Hajja Governorate
Yahya Ahmed Arif Talhi
1 cow infected
Ali Mohamed Murshid
1 cow + 2 sheep infected
Ahmed Ali Abdo
1 chronically infected calf
Ali Mohamed Khamees
2 dead sheep + 3 infected sheep
Darwish Ahmed
2 dead cows + 3 infected sheep
Hussein Mohamed Aqeed
3 dead sheep + 3 infected sheep
Al-Quflah/ Abs Village
Ahmed Mohamed Abseen
5 infected sheep + 3 infected goats
Ibrahim Saqhir Al-Abs
5 infected sheep
Shu’i Shus
5 infected sheep
Yahya Al-Abs
4 infected sheep
Shawqi Al-Ahwas
3 infected sheep
Mohamed Ahmed Faraj
2 infected sheep
Al-Qais Al-Qawri Village
Ibrahim Shu’i Khuluqar
35 sheep + 2 goats infected

In conclusion, all the symptoms that can be seen in the photos with this article are identical to the symptoms of the foot-and-mouth disease currently threatening economies in many countries. Unfortunately, villagers in most of the infected areas are not aware of the disease, because the government has not done enough to spread awareness. What is even more unfortunate is the fact that the government continues to deny the existence of the disease and ignores the calls of the villagers to try to eradicate it as soon as possible. “The government doesn’t care because the economy does not depend on our livestock. We are the only ones suffering from this disease, and it is a pity that no one is hearing our voices,” a villager said.
The agricultural and medical authorities in Yemen are not aware of the dimensions of the problem and this signals a dangerous situation that could result in the further spreading of the disease, along with other diseases, in the future. The authorities are yet start isolating the infected animals and burning them before they continue to spread the disease to healthy animals. The most to suffer from the continued ignorance and neglect of the authorities are the owners of these animals, which could result in more economic devastations to an already devastated community and improvised and deprived governorates.
Yemen Times will continue to follow up on the spread of the disease in the hopes that the authorities will be more responsible by starting to react to the situation.