Seven Hours by Foot: Delivering Vaccines in South Sudan

Silvester Okoth, Country Director for South Sudan at Veterinaires San Frontiers Germany, gave an interview to about animal health and the vaccinations that keep them healthy.

South Sudan has been at war since 1956, with very short interludes of peace. Consequently, the country has become closed to outside influence, with learning and a flow of knowledge inside and out a particular challenge.
We spoke to Silvester Okoth, Country Director for South Sudan at Veterinaires San Frontiers Germany, to find out how critical animal health, and the vaccinations that keep them healthy, is in this war-torn part of the world.

What big initiatives have you been involved in within the animal health sector to help pastoralists boost production?

One initiative is chicken. Traditionally, chicken among pastoralists has not been a key livestock. It was not part of a regular meal of the household, instead it was kept for income.

In these cases, the breeds were quite small and their multiplication is very slow. So, we introduced a new breed, which lays more eggs. At the same time, the population of people from outside South Sudan has been growing very quickly, so the demand for poultry meat is high.

Opportunities for poultry production here were ripe - a ready market, good money and demand was high. The problem was there was no local supply; poultry meat was being imported from Brazil. Since we introduced this new breed, things are picking up. Those who have adopted the breed are doing very well. The birds lay up to four times the number of eggs as previously used breeds.

We have also introduced vaccination programmes to safeguard the health of the birds. The key diseases are Newcastle Disease and fowl typhoid, which local people are now trained in administering.

The other focus breeds have been sheep and goats - animals that are very close to women and children. Sheep suffer mainly from peste des petit ruminants. Here, we’ve adopted a similar approach to that of poultry. We have concentrated first on the indigenous animals, and in areas where there has been peace, we have been able to reduce mortality rates down from as high as 80%. The multiplication has been tremendous, too - up to 500% per year. It has been a great success.

The full interview can be viewed here.