UNMISS Ghanaian veterinarians provide relief for Bentiu cattle farmers
Just outside of Bentiu town in northern South Sudan, is Biemruok Cattle Camp.
A herd of 2,000 white long-horn cattle grazing in the camp tower majestically over their keepers as young children keep themselves busy milking some of the cows.
Livestock is a valuable commodity in South Sudan. Not only are livestock an integral part of South Sudanese culture but they are also a source of wealth.
The ongoing conflict which began in December 2013, has devastated the world’s youngest nation and its people. Animals have also not been spared from the devastating consequences of the war.
In Bentiu, the crisis has undermined veterinary services leaving it almost impossible for farmers to find vaccinations and treatment for animals.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fishery in the Unity region is overwhelmed.
“Before the crisis, there were clinics around the town with veterinary drugs and the Ministry was fully functional. The crisis has left a gap,” says the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fishery in Unity, Manal Kong Youch. “We don’t have veterinary clinics in the town anymore and we also don’t have enough staff.”
Since April, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Ghanaian Battalion has been providing much needed veterinarian services, free of charge, both in Bentiu and in Leer town, south of Bentiu.
Ghanaian Battalion Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Andrews Oduah, said that the services are part of their outreach efforts to help the local population in conjunction with fulfilling their mandate of protecting civilians and building durable peace.
Dr Richard Osei Ampadu, a veterinary physician from the Ghanaian Battalion, says that, so far, over 6,000 cattle have been treated and vaccinated, adding that a system has been put in place to help track which of the animals have received attention.
Common diseases include calf diarrhea, tick infestation, and invasion of tsetse flies and ticks, especially during the rainy season.
Dr Ampadu works with two technicians from the battalion and is assisted by the local herdsmen who, over the months, have been trained to give vaccinations, understand and handle some of the common diseases.
“We were able to teach the locals how to inject. So far we do capacity building and we have about four people who help us,” said the doctor.
Despite the language barrier, Dr Ampadu says that he is able to work effectively and efficiently with the herdsmen.
“I don’t understand him. He does not understand me. But with signs we are able to communicate. When I approach an animal I know what is wrong. And they will try to use signs to tell you what is wrong,” he says.
“They are very good to me. They tell me what they need and that is why I am here,” he adds.
A local cattle owner, George Riew Jany from Mayom County, said that “the animals were dying a lot.” But since the intervention of the Ghanaian Battalion, he says the animals are now healthy and he has seen a significant decrease in the number of deaths.
Cattle are at the heart of South Sudanese culture and are a source of wealth, said Riew Jany. “You can marry and pay dowry using cattle.”
“The meat of the cattle is very useful because you can feed your children and your family. If you have cattle, you can take to the market and sell and get a lot of money. You can still survive.”
Minister Youch said the partnership between UNMISS and the government goes beyond the veterinary services provided by the Ghanaian Battalion.
“There is so much help that they have given; especially supporting the returnees and integrating them, and coordinating with us the government. They are identifying the needs of the people on the ground,” the Minister said.