Thursday, January 25, 2007

Indonesia Prepares For Mass Poultry, Bird Cull To Halt Spread Of H5N1 Virus

Live Birds Seen Flying Out Of Poultry Bonfires

Indonesia is not, officially, suffering from a bird flu pandemic in its poultry, but few now argue against the fact that an epidemic of the virus is raging across dozens of towns and villages, on numerous islands in the archipelago.

Indonesia's attempts to halt the spread of avian influenza has failed simply because poultry is such a vital part of Indonesians daily diet, and because many Indonesians keep poultry in their yards, running loose.

At least 30 million Indonesians households are reported to have at least one poultry bird in their yard, or more rarely, in a pen or a box.

They don't need to be fed, unless the trees in the yards, or the grass, are bare and produce nothing from which the poultry can forage.

And then there is the fact that Indonesia is a huge archipelago of hundreds of islands.

When families travel from one island to another on ferries or small boats for feasts and celebrations, many bring poultry birds with them. This practice alone helps to spread the virus amongst poultry birds.

But Indonesian is caving in to World Health Organisation and United Nations pressure to ramp up their poultry culling programs.

It's going to be an enormous task, and the cullers sent out to destroy poultry stocks in areas of past outbreaks have met aggressive resistance from the locals, who see no reason why their food supply should be destroyed.

There is a program of compensation payments for the poultry birds destroyed, but it is almost impossible to keep free from corruption, and there is enormous confusion.

A villager may get $1.70 for a chicken they hand over, but the are not compensated for the eggs the chicken would have produced in the year or to ahead. Nor are they compensated for the offspring this chicken would have likely produced.

To many rural Indonesians, this single payment for only the one poultry bird they hand over leaves them feeling cheated.

Indonesia has already invested tens of millions of dollars in advertising and awareness campaigns to inform the widely spread population not only of the dangers of avian influenza, but also that they soon unlikely to be allowed to keep poultry in the yards of their homes.

The Indonesia government also has to counter the deeply grounded belief that there is no such thing as avian influenza, and the talk of 'bird flu' is just a way of making them go to shops and supermarkets to buy chicken and eggs.

Nevertheless, Indonesia is now set to begin the biggest poultry and bird cull they've yet attempted.

And there is no guarantee that this venture will stop the avian influenza virus from spreading.

But Indonesia has no choice. If they are to keep on recieving WHO and UN funding for programs to tackle bird flu, they have to follow the mandated rules.

And the chief rule is : cull poultry and stop people from living amongst poultry birds.

From ABC's AM :
The World Health Organisation has labelled Indonesia's bird flu epidemic uncontrollable.

Bird flu has already killed five people in Indonesia this year. Now the country is about to embark on an unprecedented campaign of mass culling.

In Jakarta next week residents will be forced to hand over their backyard poultry...

Enforcing Jakarta's new ban on backyard birds is a messy and often confusing business.

Door to door go local officials, yanking birds from their cages with varying degrees of compliance from their owners.

Almost 1.5 million chickens, ducks, pigeons and other birds live with or alongside people in the Indonesian capital.

Until next Thursday, the bird-owners have been asked to comply with the ban voluntarily...

Tens of thousands of birds are sometimes being gathered at public events where people come and to eat free, safely cooked chicken, while officials give speeches and light bonfires of slaughtered poultry, all the name of spreading awareness of avian influenza.

Edi Santoso is South Jakarta's Head of Animal Husbandry and Fisheries :
Yeah, we hope that people voluntarily give up their birds and give it to us so next time we don't have birds in the neighbourhood.
It can be a haphazard and brutal display. Their throats slit, the birds are often still flapping as they are thrown into pits. Some even fly out on fire, and others escape altogether.

As the above report stated, the culling program is now unfolding under voluntary guidelines. The enforcement of the cull, where Indonesian police or Army go house to house to kill every poultry bird they find, will face even greater resistance, and aggression.

The psychological impact of these collection and culling programs is yet to be assessed. But it is likely to show high levels of resentment and dysfunction.

The WHO and the UN are basically asking Indonesians to change in the most fundamnetal ways a vital and important part of their culture : the keeping, raising and eating of their own poultry.

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