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Monday, December 6, 2021

Turkana herders count losses, as goat plague ravages livestock.

By Moses Ochengo

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The outbreak of goat plague disease in Turkana County is posing threats to the pastoralists’ livelihood, and endangering food security.

The first case of the highly contagious infection was reported last year in November, but little has been done by the authorities to curb the spread of the livestock killer disease.

The veterinary epidemiologists from the county and other animal health experts, had earlier declared the contagious disease an endemic. Goat plague became more widespread in Turkana after the devastating locust invasion more than a year ago.

The animal infection goes by the scientific name Peste des petits ruminants (PPR), but it is popularly known as lomoo among the locals.

A contingent of the county health surveillance and community disease monitoring teams have mapped Lokori/Kochodin, Kapedo/Napeitom and Katilia wards in Turkana East sub-county, as the most affected regions.

Most herders in the county have decried livestock losses. For instance, in Ngilukia village, Turkana East, one Simon Pringan lamented of losing  22 goats to the plague, which he said was characterized by fever, coughing, mouth sores, diarrhea, and pneumonia.  

“Some of the goats had discharge from the eyes and nose, which sometimes formed a crust, making breathing difficult and forcing eyes shut.” He said.

Pringan also noted, the perennial insecurity and cattle rustling in the region has further escalated the widespread of the disease. That is the case, because herders are forced to graze in groups for safety, causing the healthy goats and sheep to contract the infection from the sickly ones.

Vaccination Roll out

However, the Turkana Pastoral Economy executive, Philip Aemun has said the county has rolled out a vaccination program to curb the widespread of the goat plague disease.

“A total of 45,000 sheep and goats were vaccinated in Turkana East sub-county as we step up surveillance to ensure targeted vaccination. In Turkana North and Turkana Central sub-counties, a total of 53,262 livestock were vaccinated and dewormed,” he said.

Mr. Aemun has also noted the county takes cognisance of the dangers posed by the frequent insecurity and protracted drought, which force pastoralists to move from one place to another. He said migrations create challenges in eradicating the endemic, and appealed to the national government, neighbouring counties and other stakeholders to support efforts to control the disease.

“There is a need to build the capacity of county frontline personnel on animal disease surveillance using participatory methods with a focus on PPR eradication,” he said.

Smartphones surveillance

The Pastoral Economy executive also added that the county has launched the use of smartphone technology for surveillance, data collection and reporting of the disease.

The USAid’s Feed the Future and the International Livestock Research Institute(ILRI) has partnered with the Turkana County Government in the adoption of the mitigating technology. The funding has seen 20 community disease reporters being handed smartphones to facilitate surveillance and reporting of the cases.

“Through the e-surveillance system we are conducting targeted vaccination of livestock against PPR in Turkana East sub-county,” he said.

County Director for Veterinary Services Benson Longor has also urged the Turkana and West Pokot counties, to take advantage of the prevailing peace, to roll out joint livestock disease surveillance, vaccination and treatment to better eradicate the endemic

Kenya Directorate of Veterinary Services head of disease surveillance has urged regular treatment and vaccination, to avoid livestock losses from diseases such as the goat plague. He also promised comprehensive research that will inform proper eradication strategies in Turkana and other affected counties.

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