Mr Speaker, I rise to add my voice to the Statement on the floor concerning the bird flu.
Mr Speaker, as it was said in the Statement, somewhere in December 2014, we started getting reports of the outbreak of the H5N1, that is the Bird Flu in the sub region. It started from Nigeria, and it has practically gone round all the countries round us.
Ghana as a country did raise our surveillance and put a ban on any form of imports or transportation of any bird, be it poultry, guinea fowl, duck, turkey, or any form of poultry equipment from some of these affected countries.
Mr Speaker, but somehow, in May, we got a report but surprisingly, not from our border town, but from the Greater Accra Region which confirmed that the H5N1 was active in our country.
We moved in to do what was necessary. All the birds were killed, disinfections were made, things that were supposed to be burnt were burnt and the farms were put under quarantine. But eventually we had new outbreaks in the Volta Region and we quickly moved in to do same. Then we had new outbreaks in Obuasi in the Ashanti Region and we had to move in to do same.
It is also good to know, Mr Speaker, that these farms had no biosecurity systems in place. The H5N1 is a zoonotic disease, which means that it could move from the birds to human beings. But a human being would need a prolonged exposure with the affected birds before he or she could also get contaminated or
infected with the virus. So, we need to also protect our officers who would have to go to the fields to work.
As we speak, the reagents that we have in our laboratories are from 2007 and currently, we have run out of reagents to do any further tests on the birds that we may be receiving from the various farms.
We are ready as a Ministry to move to the field and the surveillance is still on. But to go to do further inspection and surveillance, we also need some amount of funds. We have not received any new cases yet apart from the one in Obuasi which has been put under control and quarantine.
Mr Speaker, but it does not also mean that we would not be having new outbreaks. What we are suspecting is that some farmers may be reluctant to come forward to report cases of sudden death and strange behaviours in their birds because of the fear that these birds would be destroyed. Even though we have spoken about compensation, they are not too sure what is happening. So, if we are not careful we may be tempted to think that it is not growing, but by the time we realise it may engulf us like wild fire.
So, I am adding my voice to that of the Hon Chairman of the Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs, to also appeal, as my Hon Minister has written to the Ministry of Finance for the release of funds for us to solve this emergency situation, taking into consideration that the bird flu disease causes a lot of economic lose to every country.
Any farm, Mr Speaker, that is affected with the virus would have to be out of operation for the next six months before we could introduce new birds, wait for the incubation period and take these birds to
the laboratory to confirm whether we have cleared that farm of the bird flu disease. So, the economic loses to the farmers and the unemployment alone that it would create is massive.
Apart from that, our officers who are going to the field to kill these birds and to do the disinfection do not have the protective garments to use. So, they would be at risk. With them being at risk, if they get infected, it would mean that they are also going to pass it on to other people.
So, this is a matter of urgency. We are adding our voices to the Hon Chairman of the Select Committee so that the Ministry of Finance would also see it as an emergency, and we do not have to wait to get human casualties. We should know that when people lose their birds and millions of Ghana cedis, that alone can even lead them to their early graves. This is because some of them might get hypertension and what have you.
So, Mr Speaker, with these few words, I support the Statement on the floor and thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity.