Monday, July 2, 2012

The Most Important Post You'll Read on Congo this Week

I know war and rebellion are more enthralling than cassava disease and livestock viruses, but there are worrying indications that these infections are proliferating throughout central Africa. Remember that some 40 percent of children in eastern Congo are already stunted, meaning that they are so malnourished that their body mass index is two full standard deviations below the norm. Child malnutrition is associated with approximately 60 percent of under-five mortality in Sub-Saharan African countries. So when crops fail, when goat herds die off, Congolese (and Ugandan, Rwandan, Burundian, etc) peasants don't just drive to the nearest supermarket to get what they need. They don't just line up at the nearest Red Cross station for provisions. They suffer. They go hungry. They get sick. They die.

Here's a piece in about banana wilt disease in Uganda, and about the government's lack of necessary funds to handle the crisis. What's true of Uganda must, of course, be even more true of DRC:

Kampala — Lack of funding has stalled a campaign to eliminate a deadly bacterial banana wilt disease that has spread to "worrying levels" in Uganda, threatening the food security of up to 14 million consumers of bananas as a staple food, say scientists.
According to a scientist at the country's premier agricultural research institute, the disease - known as the Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) - can only be contained if funding of up to US$1 million per year is secured for the fight against its spread.
Jerome Kubiriba, a research officer in charge of banana bacterial wilt disease at Uganda's National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), said if the disease continues to spread, production of cooking bananas (known locally as 'matooke', a major staple food in much of the country) could be halved over the next 10 years.
Studies show that annual consumption of bananas in Uganda is the highest in the world at about 0.7kg per person per day.
"Funding of at least $1 million annually would effectively save bananas worth over $200 million annually," said Kubiriba.
"The government of Uganda used to support this effort significantly, [but] this support has drastically reduced. Even donor support dwindled since 2008. Until that time, the disease had been kept under control in major banana growing areas but it has since increased to worrying levels."
And here's a piece about the small ruminant disease, from an AP story that appeared in the Washington Post:
 ROME — A U.N. agency has warned that a livestock epidemic in Congo that has killed more than 75,000 goats is the worst in a decade and is now threatening goats and sheep in neighboring countries.
The disease, called peste de petit ruminants, or PPR, is highly lethal, with an 86 percent mortality rate among goats. It is caused by a virus that is similar to measles in humans.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said 1 million goats and 600,000 sheep are at risk of contracting the disease. To protect them, farmers have been moving their herds away from infected villages, but that has only spread the epidemic to healthy flocks of animals.

For my earlier postings on the topic, see here and here.

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