UNMISS Bangladesh battalion treats thousands of cattle in Wau
They show up from virtually nowhere. No pre-announcement of their arrival is needed. When the team of Bangladeshi troops-cum-veterinaries serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan appear, any wise livestock owning individual better line up to have his or her animals treated.
People in Bar-Shergi, a neighbourhood of Wau town, do exactly that. Accompanied by more than 2,000 ailing yet highly valued four-legged possessions, residents enjoy the gentle early morning sun, chewing the fat with each other and not-so-fat cows and goats.
Waiting to have their multi-purpose animals serviced is time well spent, they say.
“Thanks be to God that medicines are brought to us. Some cows have breast problems, others have swollen lungs. We search for medicines but cannot find them. Only here,” says Valentino Piol, giving his sick one an affectionate gaze.
Lieutenant Colonel Baliet Hussein, also a veterinary doctor, explains that the Bangladeshi intervention to contribute to the wellbeing of cattle is part of the peacekeeping mission’s broad mandate to protect civilians.
“The basic source of income here [in South Sudan] is livestock, so our veterinary campaigns are really humanitarian activities,” says this uniformed guardian angel of cattle, adding that healthy animals lead to better living standards in general.
Thousands and thousands of residents in the Bahr-el-Ghazal region of the country survive on the milk, and eventually meat, provided by their animals.
‘’Basically, we are offering anti-parasitic treatment, which consists of deworming, vitamins and minerals, and some of the most-needed antibiotics,’’ Dr. Hussein says, while putting a bovine buttock firmly in place for a life-enhancing injection.
A few veterinary clinics operate in the area, but their expensive services are out of reach for most livestock owners residing here.
‘’If you go to a pharmacy, you will find that medicines cost two thousand or three thousand [South Sudanese] pounds (approximately 10 dollars), and when you come home you realize that what you have bought is not enough,” laments David Kuot, responsible for taking care of some 70 cows.
This sad state of affairs is confirmed by Dr. Paul Angelo, who works at the local state-run veterinary department. He says that their difficulties in getting hold of appropriate medication in sufficient quantities mean that they often have to refer cattle owners to privately owned, expensive pharmacies, especially if an outbreak of a particular disease takes place.
Local livestock are indeed alarmingly vulnerable to epidemics, as the last vaccination campaign undertaken by the local ministry of agriculture took place more than two years ago.