Nine villagers from northern Zimbabwe have contracted suspected anthrax after eating the meat of dead hippos, the state broadcaster is reporting.
The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) said as many as 58 villagers ate the meat in Saba village, Binga district.
The type of anthrax the nine appear to have contracted is cutaneous anthrax, as most human anthrax infections are. With proper treatment, most people who contract this kind of anthrax survive.
However, the incident is extremely worrying given the large number of people who may have been exposed to the hippo meat.
Anthrax spores can survive in the environment for decades.
Local authorities and conservationists initially thought the mysterious deaths of up to 11 hippos in the district this month were due to pesticide use.
The number of dead hippos has now gone up to 16.
Some possibly-infected hippo meat was found on sale mixed with goat meat in a butchery, according to a medical officer quoted by ZBC.
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By Paidamoyo Chipunza and Elita Chikwati
Nine people from Binga District, Matabeleland North, are being treated for anthrax after consuming meat from infected hippos that died a fortnight ago. Anthrax is a life-threatening infectious disease caused by bacteria that normally affects animals, especially ruminants. Speaking to The Herald yesterday, Matabeleland North provincial medical director Dr Nyasha Masuka said the nine, who included three children, were among 58 others whom health workers were following up for possible infection.
“We have so far treated nine people, five males and three females, from Siansundu village for anthrax and our teams are closely monitoring 58 others who also ate the dead hippos for any signs or symptoms of the disease,” said Dr Masuka.
He said of the nine infected, eight had subsuternous anthrax which affects the skin and manifests in the form of ulcers, while one was complaining of headache, which is synonymous with meningital anthrax.
Dr Masuka said meningital anthrax affected mainly the brain and its symptoms included headaches.
Other forms of anthrax include intestinal, whose symptoms are normally vomiting, and pulmonary anthrax, which affects the lungs.
Two weeks ago, 16 hippos were found dead along the Zambezi river in Binga.
Although initial suspicion of the cause of the animal’s death was poisoning, the Department of Veterinary Services under the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development confirmed that anthrax had caused the death.
According to the department, Binga was an anthrax hot spot and this was not the first time that hippos had died from the disease in the area.
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opinionBy Ben Freeth
Ever since 2001, a year after the brutal invasion of Zimbabwe’s commercial farms began, the country has been dependent on vast volumes of international food aid. Thanks to the generosity of farmers and taxpayers in the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, mass-scale starvation has largely been averted, but the cost and complex logistics have posed a massive, 15-year long challenge.
In 2002, for example, just two years into the land invasions, Zimbabwe recorded a 70 percent shortfall in production to meet annual food requirements. Consequently, the country required 486 000 tonnes of food aid to meet the food security requirements of 49 percent of the population (more than 6,7 million people) over the period September 2002 to March 2003.
This year, due to the ongoing chaos and chronic lack of farming activity on the majority of the commercial farms, a third of the population (more than four million people) requires international food aid. Once again, President Robert Mugabe and his government have blamed the country’s dismal agricultural performance on the drought, but the reality is that last year, the majority of dams on the former commercial farms had not been utilised and were full.
On the back of property rights, Zimbabwe’s commercial farmers developed 80 percent of the continent’s irrigation dams, with a total of 10 747 dams and reservoirs covering an area of 3 910 square kilometres. This enabled agriculture to become the most important economic sector, despite the country being prone to intermittent drought conditions.
The fact that we have become a consistently hungry nation has played into the hands of the same political elite who have cunningly created the hunger: They have insisted on distributing food aid. By so doing, President Mugabe’s government has been able to manipulate the people’s loyalty — notably in the vulnerable rural areas — and has thus successfully and forcibly controlled them.
Not only has food aid been withheld from opposition strongholds, but actual blockading of food distribution has frequently taken place. In January 2002, for example, the British charity, Save the Children Fund, was barred from delivering food to about 10 000 starving people in the remote northern district of Binga.
Although widespread hunger is a convenient tool of control, it is also an embarrassment because it counters government propaganda claiming that the “fast track land reform programme” has been a success. If this were indeed the case, how could a country that used to feed the region fail so spectacularly year after year to feed itself?
Various desperate measures have been dreamt up by the government to, on the one hand, rectify the embarrassment; but on the other hand, to keep ruthless control.
In 2005, Operation Maguta/Inala — which means “people have their fill” — was devised to utilise the army to till the land and feed the nation through a “command agriculture” system. It failed dismally, resulting in 5,8 million people requiring emergency food assistance.
Then there was the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s “farm mechanisation scheme” through which more than US$200 million was pumped into the four-phase farm mechanisation programme. It was launched in 2007, ostensibly to help the country’s newly-resettled farmers with farm implements on a rent-to-buy basis. This scheme failed too.
Now in 2016, through Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, our politicians have suddenly announced another grand command agriculture scheme costing US$500 million.
This time they wish to fund a select politically supportive set of 2 000 farmers, who will each apparently grow 1 000 tonnes of maize for the State. Any excess over the 1 000 tonnes can be retained by the farmer. Each farmer will be earmarked to receive US$250 000 to produce his 1 000 tonnes.
There will of course be a great rush for that money.
An opportunity such as this, which will give the so-called farmer both status and financial benefit, will have significant appeal. In a country where poverty is dire, where the vast majority of title deeds have been nationalised, and where the banks have run out of money, it’s almost impossible to get money from anywhere on that scale.
When the political elite and their friends gain that money though, they will suddenly realise that it’s actually not enough. Installing irrigation schemes costs a great deal more than the allocated US$1 250 per hectare. After that, there is also the cost of tractors, tilling equipment, planters, combine harvesters, sprayers, fertiliser, seed, diesel, electricity, chemicals, wages — and so the list goes on.
If the scheme is going to genuinely finance 400 000 hectares of irrigated maize production, a great deal more money will need to be found from somewhere. In a bankrupt State that puts its policemen out to collect their pay at innumerable roadblocks, this will be nigh on impossible.
Time is not on their side either. Attempts to capacitate 2 000 farmers with 200 hectares of irrigation each in the next three months before planting season will be interesting to watch. The development of 400 000 hectares of irrigation took the former commercial farmers — with title deeds, good farming practices, careful loan management and repayment, as well as world-class extension services — decades of hard work to achieve.
To believe that the “new farmers” will have 400 000 hectares of irrigation up and running in the next three months is like waving a magic wand and claiming that Air Zimbabwe will start flying to the moon and back next year. Air Zimbabwe, like Zimbabwean agricultural, is virtually grounded. It won’t happen.
The other element of the command agriculture grand scheme is the irrigation of pastures for beef export. The 2 000 hectares of irrigation at ARDA-Ngwezi Estate in the dry Matabeleland South province will reportedly support 60 000 beef cattle. This will require a carrying capacity of 30 cattle per hectare — a feat which is unequalled in the history of cattle farming.
Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, needs to explain to increasingly restive Zimbabweans where the money is coming from to fund this latest scheme, and how it will be repaid.
In my view, the entire command agriculture concept is another blundering, totalitarian control and patronage scheme that is doomed to fail to feed the nation. Stalin, Mao, Polpot, and others, in the days before food aid, oversaw comparable schemes and millions of people perished.
The last 16 years have seen the nationalisation of the vast majority of agricultural title deeds in Zimbabwe.
The empowerment of the people with title deeds is simply anathema in control politics.
Hunger — and of course food aid — will remain the net result of denying private property rights.
The war veterans who spearheaded the take-over of the commercial farms were never given title deeds to the land they took and the commercial farmers have not been compensated by the government. In international law, the farmers remain the title holders.
Had this been a genuine land reform programme, the commercial farmers would have been compensated so that those who took over the farms, or the people who had been allocated land, could produce the title deeds as collateral for bank loans.
During the farm invasions, the war vets had the backing of the government, the police and the national defence force. However, the situation changed dramatically last month when the war veterans castigated government.
To become a successful agricultural nation once again, Zimbabwe needs to recognise the title deed owners for what they are: “Owners”; and then create new title deeds throughout the country where title deeds have never existed before. If that is done, within a short period of time, Zimbabwe will once again be not only food secure but a thriving nation with produce, jobs and development.
The latest unfolding command agriculture catastrophe will result in three outcomes:
1. The western tax payer will once again have to come to the rescue of starving Zimbabweans and provide massive quantities of food aid, which is itself a controversial issue across Africa;
2. The Zimbabwean people will be saddled with a yet larger debt to repay in order to finance the 2 000 farmer beneficiaries with their half a billion dollars; and
3. The corrupt and sycophantic political elite will continue to fund their lavish lifestyles with additional money that the bankrupt Zimbabwean state cannot afford.
In spite of ZANU-PF’s latest control agriculture programme, the fractured party is losing ground rapidly. I am confident that when change comes, a new, elected government will be committed to empowering and supporting those who genuinely wish to farm. Every successful agricultural nation has achieved success on the back of title deeds being issued and upheld as sacrosanct and the new government will see that.
Ben Freeth is the executive director of the Mike Campbell Foundation and the spokesperson for SADC Tribunal Rights Watch.
Sep 2 2016 | Posted in Agriculture
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THE United Nations has declared Binga as the worst drought hit district in the country with the highest number of malnourished children and school drop outs.
Bishow Parajuli, the resident UN Coordinator, made the announcement Saturday after completing a two-day field visit to Matabeleland North province where they were assessing the impact the El Niño induced drought.
“The situation in Binga District calls for an increased and continued humanitarian assistance, including food, nutrition, school meal, animal feed and water,” he said in a statement.
Parajuli said they visited Simatelele Clinic which is supported by Save the Children and the UN agencies (UNFPA, UNAIDS, UNICEF, UN Women, WHO and the World Bank) where they discovered that the health facility was overwhelmed by malnourished children.
“This health care facility is tackling increasing cases of malnutrition, regularly screening over 18,000 children monthly out of a total 22,000 children,” said the UN envoy.
“The clinic showed that due to the prevailing unprecedented drought situation, several hard hit localities have become hot-spots of high malnutrition. In this regard, the UN would like to appeal to the local administrations and the media to report on this localized high level of malnutrition rates regularly to garner timely national and international response.”
The UN delegation also noted with concern the increasing number of children who were dropping out of school owing to the debilitating hunger.
“Equally important, there is an urgent need for school meals intervention as students in schools such as the Simatelele primary and secondary have witnessed dropouts and scanty attendance,” said Parajuli.
“Local Administration, Schools management and students consulted attributed the sporadic missing of classes to hunger.”
The El Nino induced drought has contributed to large-scale crop failure and livestock deaths across the country leaving 4 million Zimbabweans in urgent need of food aid.
The El Nino, a weather pattern which recurs every two to seven years, has caused severe drought bringing hardship to 50 million people across Southern Africa.
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