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"Bird Flu Hits Bono, Upper East and Eastern Regions" - Agric Minister

The Minister for Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto has revealed that Bono, Upper East and Eastern Regions are the latest to record cases of Bird Flu in the country.

According to him, other regions who have already been hit by the disease are also recording new cases.

Addressing Journalists in Accra on Wednesday, he said "The current update is that the Bono, Upper East and Eastern regions are the latest to record cases of Bird Flu while some of the already affected regions continue to experience new cases. Among them is the Greater Accra region precisely some parts of Tema where a number of farms have been affected. Other notable cases reported most recently are in Sunyani in the Bono Region"

The Minister told Journalists that in all cases, the Veterinary Services Directorate of the Ministry has been on hand to offer the requisite services for stemming the spread of the disease.

Dr. Akoto also disclosed that his Ministry has received Financial Clearance to commence the recruitment of the 550 veterinary professionals.

He further explained that his outfit has also received a warrant for the release of Twenty million Ghana Cedis (GHC20 million) to carry out the aforementioned activities.

"We are looking forward to receiving the remaining 50% of the approved budget to enable the Ministry procure badly needed vehicles, motorbikes and laboratory equipment for operational purposes"

The Minister stressed that the availability of these logistics will go a long way to strengthen the capacity of the VSD to carry out its very important mandate of protecting Ghana’s livestock and poultry industry, through surveillance and timely enforcement of biosecurity measures on farms.

Dr. Akoto hinted that the logistics will also empower the Ministry to enforce compliance of biosecurity and management standards of livestock and poultry farms.

"Ladies and gentlemen, while awaiting the release of approved funds to combat the spread of the HPAI in the country, my Ministry is responding within the constraints of available resources to protect and mitigate the adverse impact of the disease on the livestock and poultry industry"

The Food and Agriculture Minister further announced that as part of its action plan to stabilize the situation, it is rolling out a comprehensive communication plan to sensitize the general public and targeted stakeholders at the national, regional and district levels about the HPAI and other transboundary animal diseases.

"Pursuant to this, a Ministerial implementation team will be inaugurated on Friday 28th January 2022, to coordinate the nationwide sensitization programme and oversee the general implementation of the Ministry’s management programme"

"I must emphasize that in addition to the provision of technical services by the VSD, the nationwide sensitization programme is key to the success of stemming the further spread of the disease in the country. The key actors for ensuring this include Traditional Authorities, MMDAs, Famers and Value Chain Actors within the livestock and poultry industry, the media, Allied Health Institutions and the Security Agencies"

The Minister called on media to support in combat the HPAI and other transboundary animal diseases.

"Finally, ladies and gentlemen, a major reason why the country’s poultry and livestock industry has become vulnerable to the outbreak of transboundary animal diseases is the long absence of an updated Animal Health Act to effectively regulate the industry"

"I am therefore pleased to report that Government has taken the necessary steps to up-date the existing 1960 Animal Health Act by finalizing a new Bill for introduction to parliament this year"

He revealed that once in effect, the updated Act will empower the Ministry through the VSD to regulate the industry.

He told the media that among the proposals of the Bill is the regulatory authority to certify poultry and livestock farms and the enforcement of sanctions such as closure of farms of recalcitrant farmers in the country.

Dr. Afriyie Akoto urged the public to support Government’s efforts to contain the spread of the HPAI and help keep alive the vision of transforming the Livestock and Poultry industry.

Government’s Intervention

The Minister hinted that government’s unprecedented intervention seeks to strengthen the capacity of the VSD for the effective discharge of its core mandate of managing Animal Health in the country.

It would be recalled that Government granted approval for the immediate recruitment and deployment an initial 550 veterinary professionals, out of a total of 1100 Professionals throughout the country.

The intervention also include approval for the release of an emergency budget support of approximately Forty-Four million Ghana Cedis (GHC 44 million) to the Ministry.

Story by: Joshua Kwabena Smith

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