Avian Flu Spreads to Africa

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


The WHO recently confirmed that the avian flue had migrated to Africa, and called on countries in the region to take emergency measures to prevent the flu’s spread outside of Nigeria. The continent, which is dependent on backyard poultry, can hardly afford the onset of avian flue, and there is no infrastructure to deal with the problem. Veterinary care is meager, barefooted children play with sick poultry, testing is limited and backyard chickens have access to wild birds, increasing the risk of contamination. It’s an uphill battle to convince African farmers to kill their chickens, and according to the chairman of Nigeria’s local poultry farmers association, Alhaji Aruna , farmers are more likely hide their poultry and turn to the black market than quarantine their animals.

“We live with the flu. It’s not a big deal to us. We should be less concerned about it in Africa,” Aruna said. “We should be more concerned about things that are more devastating to us than a white man’s disease. If it is only in Africa, little effort would have been made. In fact, in all sincerity, corruption is the highest disease that we have.” And it is that corruption that he anticipates will prevent Western countries from donating aid to Africa to deal with the flu, as lenders question whether farmers will actually receive any compensation for the chickens they kill. Moreover, Nigerians distrust the government so thoroughly that many people question whether the bird flu even exists, or is some sort of ploy.

In the past week cases of avian flu in birds were also found in India. In contrast with Africa, India immediately announced it had a stockpile of 80,000 doses of Tamiflu. Because of the thriving pharmaceutical industry there, one million more doses are in production.

It appears USAID in Africa is attempting to get around government corruption by building infrastructure for flu prevention. By building schools, increasing training and supplying equipment, USAID hopes to “build a fire hydrant before the fire.” Additionally, the U.S. pledged $25 million to Nigeria in technical assistance. But if the bird infection cannot be restrained quickly, it could have devastating repercussions to a region whose livelihood is dependent on poultry, and is ill-equipped to face a major pandemic.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate