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This is the first in a two-part series about my visit to the Kyeema Foundation in Maputo, Mozambique.  Cross posted from Nourishing the Planet.

Although avian influenza and H1N1 have dominated the news for the last few years, many other serious diseases can ravage livestock and rural communities. Newcastle disease, which can wipe out entire flocks of chickens and can spread from farm to farm, is especially devastating for rural farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Vaccines for Newcastle used to be hard to come by in Africa. They were imported and usually expensive, putting them out of reach of small farmers. And even when they were available, they required refrigeration, which is not common in many rural villages.

Today, however, thanks to the work of the International Rural Poultry Center of the Kyeema Foundation in Mozambique, villages have access not only to vaccines, but also to locally trained community vaccinators (or para-vets) who can help spot and treat Newcastle and other poultry diseases before they spread.

With help from a grant from the Australian Government’s overseas aid program (AusAID), Kyeema developed a thermo-stable vaccine that doesn’t need to be refrigerated and is easier for rural farmers to administer to their birds. Dr. Rosa Costa, Kyeema’s director in Mozambique, explained that vaccinations take place three times a year and farmers are taught—with cleverly designed flip-charts and posters—how to apply the vaccines with eyedroppers.

In addition, according to Dr. Costa, the community vaccinators try to link the control of Newcastle with efforts to address avian influenza because the symptoms of the two diseases—coughing, diarrhea, lethargy, runny eyes, mortality—are often similar.

Community leaders help Kyeema identify people who are well respected in the community to be community vaccinators, who then receive training. The vaccinators aren’t compensated by Kyeema, but they can make a small profit from each bottle of vaccination. Typically, women are chosen as vaccinators, says Dr. Costa. Not only do they tend to stay in the villages more than men, but the money they earn usually does much more to help the family because they use it to buy food or schoolbooks for their children.

Because more birds are surviving because of vaccinations, Kyeema is also working with farmers to build better housing for their poultry and to find additional sources of feed.

Stay tuned for more on our visit to Kyeema later this week.

Originally posted to BorderJumpers on Tue Feb 02, 2010 at 11:14 AM PST.

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