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A plague or a blessing?

Update: October, 29/2019 - 07:50
A poor farmer in Vĩnh Ô Commune, Vĩnh Linh District in Quảng Trị Province stood aside her two buffaloes, one was her own, one was given to her in a poverty reduction project - one that turned out to be ill. — Photo sggp.org.vn

Nearly 20 poor households from a rural commune in the central province of Quảng Trị thought their lives were about to turn around, or at least improve a wee bit, when they were told they have been included on a list to receive cattle from a poverty reduction project.

There’s a traditional saying in Việt Nam that goes something like buffaloes are the foremost means of livelihoods. It is still relevant in agrarian communities to this day.

The poor residents never imagined that these blessings would turn out to be more like a curse.

Last week, Hồ Văn Sáu, leader of Vĩnh Ô Commune, said that 18 households from five villages had received 12 cows and six buffaloes from Vĩnh Linh District’s sustainable poverty relief project.

The people immediately noticed that the cattle looked weak and were walking funny. The company that was contracted by the district’s agriculture department to supply the cattle blamed it on the long distance and treacherous journey through the mountains.

The day after, the households reported to local authorities that the cattle were foaming at the mouth, refusing to eat and unsteady on their feet.

Hồ Văn Xan, a recipient, was at his wits’ end.

“If they die, we will be empty handed again,” he said, referring to another buffalo his family had owned that became ill after contact with a newly arrived buffalo.

Two days later, the company and the district’s agriculture department came to examine the animals, and concluded they had contracted foot-and-mouth disease.

The cows were promptly taken back but not before they had spread the highly contagious disease to the entire herd of the commune, which stood at around 600.

Some 100 were diagnosed with the disease a few days later.

Sáu said that before the cattle arrived, there was no report of disease or symptoms whatsoever.

The outbreak has wreaked havoc in the commune that only has vet and a limited supply of disinfectants.

The director of the supply company, Nguyễn Thị Thuỷ Hương, insisted the cattle had been vaccinated as per regulations and had undergone health examinations before they were handed over.

She said that while the source of the outbreak had not been identified, the timing was unfortunate so the company was ready to help residents address the problem. — VNS

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