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Afghanistan: Helping herders help themselves

10-07-2003 News Release 03/77

By the end of July the ICRC will have completed a campaign to administer an anti-parasite treatment to over 140,000 sick animals in Bamiyan province, in central Afghanistan. A veterinary survey carried out by the organization in April 2002 estimated that 60 - 80% of all livestock in the area had died of the combined effects of conflict and a four-year drought.

Most of the remaining animals were found to be infected with parasites such as worms, liver fluke, and ticks. Parasites not only kill animals but also reduce their milk yield and reproduction rates. In a country where over 80% of the population survives by farming and herding animals, parasites seriously endanger the recovery of the war- and drought-shattered rural economy.

One day recently the ICRC team reached the high plateau overlooking the Shibar valley as shepherds from nearby villages started to arrive in the grazing area, followed by hundreds of animals. The delegates quickly set up pens to hold the 2,000 animals expected that day. As the goats, sheep, cows and horses gathered, Dr Abdul Wasi, one of two ICRC veterinarians working in Shibar, spoke to a group of elders sitting in a circle. " We have training sessions with the herders and elders in each area where we treat animals. We explain our methods and how we prepare and use the medicines so that when the ICRC programme comes to an end, herders can keep using those same medicines. We are here to listen to the people and answer their questions. "

After they gathered in two large pens, the animals were given an oral drench against endo-parasites, followed by a thorough spraying against ticks and other ecto-parasites.

" This is a remote area — there are no public services, " explained Abdul Aziz, a breeder from Shibar district. " We returned to our homes only recently, after the war stopped, and we are poor. All the fighting plus four years of drought have cost us over 60% of our animals, and today most of our cattle, sheep, and goats have parasites. "

 Further information: Simon Schorno, ICRC Kabul, tel.: 0093 70 27 64 65