Farmers in north and central Vietnam are bracing for a new wave of bird flu outbreaks as local authorities are urged to take precautions against the disease.
In the past two weeks, local news reported around 67,000 poultry infected with the H5N1 virus in the northern city of Hai Phong, and 17,000 in Ha Tinh Province in the centre of the country. This follows six outbreaks in late July in the north that led to almost 30,000 birds being culled, according to figures reported to the Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
Farmers are afraid of financial loss. “I am very worried about bird flu outbreaks because my chickens and ducks weigh two kilograms each now. It is nearly time to sell them, so if bird flu appears, I will lose them,” Vu Van Chuc, 42, told IRIN. She has 100 ducks and chickens on her farm in Hai Duong Province in the north.
Chuc said she used to have 2,000 chickens but stopped investing in large numbers of birds after suffering a big loss in 2008 because of bird flu.
“How can I make that money in the countryside? It’s not easy now. I want to raise more [chickens] but I am afraid of bird flu. If there is a bird flu outbreak, I will go bankrupt.”
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has urged local authorities to tighten the inspection of poultry imports to stop infected birds entering the country. Local news reports blamed a lack of awareness among poultry farmers, and poor preparedness in disease prevention and control, but the cause is still unknown, according to OIE.
Chuc said she does her best to protect her poultry by sterilizing her farm and vaccinating the birds, but the government is not doing enough to support farmers. “They don’t do much. They just broadcast information on the radio, advising us to protect our chickens, but they do not give us medicines to protect our chickens. I have to buy the medicines myself.”
The government has handed out over three million doses of vaccine against the virus since it was discovered in Vietnam in 2003, and has destroyed nearly 100,000 poultry. Last year, the virus killed 151,300 birds, but this was 50 percent fewer than in 2010.
The risks are too great for some. Nguyen Thi Hang, a farmer in Soc Son District on the outskirts of the capital, Hanoi, said her family raised chickens for more than six years. “In 2009 we had 500 chickens but we suffered big losses because of bird flu. We tried raising them again, but the more we raised, the more we lost, so in the end we decided to stop raising them.”
Four people are reported to have died from the disease this year - the first cases in 21 months. According to the World Health Organization, there have been 121 confirmed human H5N1 infections and 61 deaths in Vietnam since the virus first appeared in the country in 2003.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions