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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 March 2006, 15:14 GMT
African press eyes bird flu dangers

The arrival of bird flu in Africa exercises publications across the continent, with some carrying reassuring reports that their countries are on top of the situation while others cast doubt on their governments' ability to cope.

Nowhere is the latter more so than in Nigeria, the first African nation to register the virus in poultry.

According to the Lagos weekly news magazine Tell, the nation was caught unawares.

"The avian flu scourge catches the nation unprepared, ravaging the poultry stock and threatening human lives," it said.

The weekly says delays in tackling the outbreak at the farm where it started were the result of the management thinking workers "were either not feeding the birds well or might have poisoned their food".

The more the government talks about its preparedness for a bird flu epidemic, the more it appears to be an empty promise
Kenya's East African Standard

"This led to the termination of the appointment of 35 staff of the farm. But the birds continued to die even in larger numbers."

The weekly quoted Health Minister Eyitayo Lambo as saying everything was being done to ensure the disease "does not get to humans. Good as some of the measures may be, some experts are still having the opinion that they are not the best".

Kenya's The Nation believes that "Nigeria is lucky that there has been no reported case of human infection so far despite two weeks of panic".

"The highly pathogenic H5N1 strain came calling when there was not a single tablet of Tamiflu in the entire country."

"Of course, there had been ample warnings about the potential spread of bird flu to Nigeria," the Kenyan daily says, adding that it is located along the migratory path of birds coming from Europe and Asia.

'Empty promises'

In Kenya itself, the East African Standard writes, "the more the government talks about its preparedness for a bird flu epidemic, the more it appears to be an empty promise".

"It is not that the government is indifferent or incapable of containing any outbreak; the problem is that the assumed level of preparedness has not been reflected on the ground. That is why Kenyans panic every time they come across dead poultry or birds."

In neighbouring Uganda, the Daily Monitor is also far from sanguine about the issue, carrying an editorial headlined "Bird flu campaign should fight graft".

"Minister Mondo Kagonyera who is heading the ministerial committee on bird-flu should be forewarned about two things: Firstly, we need to have a clear strategy on how to protect our free-range domestic fowls from the virus carried mainly by wild birds, and also ensure that it does not cross over to humans... The bigger danger, however, is corruption"

Another Ugandan daily, The New Vision, writes that the Kampala government is seeking $15m for bird flu prevention.

"The government is looking for $15m for a prevention and control programme... the assistant commissioner for disease control in the agriculture ministry said the government had set up a bird flu team."

A regional approach in combating the virus was the best effective preventive mechanism that would see the southern African region free of the virus
Official quoted in Zimbabwe's The Herald

The Times of Zambia carries an article headlined "What to Do Before And After Bird Flu Strikes?"

"Right now, African countries, Zambia inclusive, have been placed on alert over the deadly avian influenza... Zambia has for this purpose set aside 16bn Kwacha ($4.9m) towards preparations in case of an outbreak of bird flu after being identified alongside other countries as a high-risk area for the disease because of migrating birds."

In Benin, La Nation publishes an upbeat report, saying the World Health Organisation "commends the considerable progress in the Benin republic's health sector" adding that "Benin has put in place the necessary mechanism to prepare for the eventual outbreak of avian flu".

The WHO, it continues, "recommends that the government reinforce the information and communication on avian flu, aiming to sensitise the population, mainly farm workers and breeders".

Relief

Zimbabwe's The Herald is pleased the country's authorities have given the OK for a number of major poultry arms to resume exports after they were declared free of the H5N1 virus.

A leading veterinary official said "a regional approach in combating the virus was the best effective preventive mechanism that would see the southern African region free of the virus".

Tests carried out on domestic ducks in Niger confirmed the presence of the H5N1 avian flu virus
Niger's Saraounia FM radio

"He said his department had during the assessment at two ostrich farms in Bulawayo, detected harmless anti-bodies of the H5N2 type of the avian virus in the ostriches."

Ghanaian GBC radio reports that the government had released funds to combat bird flu "should it break out in the country. Operators in the poultry industry expressed support for government measures to combat bird flu in case of outbreak".

On Monday, a Niger radio, the French-language Saraounia FM broadcasting from the capital Niamey, quoted the French news agency as saying "the avian flu virus has just been found in Niger".

"Tests carried out on domestic ducks in Niger confirmed the presence of the H5N1 avian flu virus... But for the time being, Niger's authorities have not yet officially confirmed the presence of the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus in our country."

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.




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