On Friday. the United Nations Food Agency issued a communique on the outbreak of a highly contagious strain of H5N1 avian influenza, commonly called "bird flu", which has ignited fear that the disease may become endemic in the West African region.
Bird flu, over the past two years, has hit numerous poultry farms in West African countries. Cameroon and Niger have become the latest countries affected in the region, in an outbreak that has hit Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Nigeria.
Speaking on the issue, a senior animal health officer at the FAO, Eran Raizman, said the virus is considered practically endemic in Nigeria and expressed fear by the organization that other countries do not have the budget to probably fight the endemic.
"If the policies are to cull all the infected birds people loose all they have,’’ Raizman said.
He told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview that if the government was not fast enough to pay the compensations they would not have anything to live off.
Raizman said in spite of the urgency to contain the disease, it was challenging to raise the funds needed to help countries like Nigeria cope with infections and eliminate the risk of the virus becoming endemic.
"If we do not act now we will cry for generations because it will be very difficult, given the growth of the poultry industry in Africa, to control the disease,’’ the FAO said.
H5N1 bird flu first infected humans in 1997 in Hong Kong.
It has since spread from Asia to Europe and Africa and has become entrenched in poultry in some countries, causing millions of poultry infections and several hundred human deaths.
According to FAO, poultry production has grown rapidly across West Africa in the past decade; the Ivory Coast alone has seen output expand by over 60 percent.