Health Politics Regional

Farmers: Government complacent in FMD outbreak.

A victim of the recent Foot & Mouth disease outbreak. photo by Hamza Ngaruye

Whilst the country has been grappling with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, farmers across South western Uganda have been waging a battle of their own against a fresh Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak. Since November last year, the zoonotic disease has spread across five districts namely: Kazo, Kiruhura, Sembabule, Gomba and Insigiro despite the quarantines and movement restrictions imposed across the regions.

Although the government claims the vaccines to be free and accessible, farmers continue to lose livestock at a fast rate as all efforts to stop the spread prove futile. In some cases commercial farmers have resorted to privately purchasing the drug rather than rely on the government.

“You cant wait for the government to vaccinate your cows, this disease is too deadly and you would rather spend UGX150,000/= than lose a cow worth UGX2,000,000/=” explained one Ninsiima Steven, a farmer and business man, Mbarara District.

In a statement released in February, the government had acquired 2,400,000 doses of the FMD vaccine in a measure to control the spread of the disease. However according to Medard Kakuru, a research analyst, numbers matter in such cases since Uganda has 15 million heads of cattle and this might be too expensive for the government to carry out.

farmers across the region still register losses as the vaccines become scarce. photo by Hamza Ngaruye.

The State Minister of Animal Husbandry, Bright Rwamirama has accused veterinarians and farmers for the failure to defeat the deadly disease. On the other hand many Ugandans feel that the government is solely to blame as they haven’t paid enough attention to the deadly virus and this has left minimal resources available in the fight against FMD.

“The government spends trillions a year on various programs, it would cost much less to gazette these districts and National Wild Parks where the disease originates” suggested one concerned farmer who wished to stay anonymous.

The foot and mouth disease is endemic to Uganda and since its outbreak in 1953 when it was first recorded, the country has spent vast resources in trying to eradicate it to no avail. This has also led to a number of restrictions being imposed on the country’s livestock and its movement further hindering international trade and putting a dent in the country’s economy.

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