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Indonesia does about face and announces chicken cull JAKARTA - Indonesia bowed to international pressure over its handling of a bird flu outbreak on Thursday, saying it would cull chickens instead of vaccinating them in a bid to contain the spread of the disease. The decision, announced by a cabinet minister, comes one day after the world's fourth most populous country came under fire at an international conference for putting domestic politics before international public health.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) -- which had criticised Jakarta's earlier decision not to cull birds -- said the about face was good news. "In regards to the bird flu issue...for sure the government will cull the chickens in infected regions," Chief Social Welfare Minister Jusuf Kalla said on local radio after meeting President Megawati Sukarnoputri. "We will replace them with a new breed," he said without elaborating.
El Shinta radio reported Megawati had ordered the cull, a step the government had previously said it opposed because of the cost of compensating farmers. Critics at a bird flu conference in Thailand had suggested politics might be as much or more of a factor. "Maybe they are thinking about the economic and social consequences of this because Indonesia is in the process of election," one WHO official told a news conference there.
Indonesia is due to hold parliamentary polls in April and its first direct presidential election in July. Campaigning will begin in March and a mass cull across the archipelago, where many farmers are small holders, could be a problem for the government. Some reports estimate Indonesia's poultry industry, including feed consumed, to be worth around 60 trillion rupiah ($7.12 billion) a year.
Separately, Agriculture Minister Bungaran Saragih said the government had set aside 212 billion rupiah ($25.40 million) in a combined effort to cull and vaccinate. "Several organisations and neighbouring countries have offered aid to counter this endemic issue, such as the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation), the Netherlands and Japan," Saragih told a parliamentary hearing. After the testimony, a parliamentary commission said the situation should be treated as an emergency equivalent to a natural disaster.

Six months to control
"We estimate that we can control this bird flu in six months," Saragih said, adding the government may have to import vaccine if a shortage occurs. Georg Petersen, WHO representative in Indonesia, said the decision brought Indonesia in line with the strategy in other affected parts of Asia. "We've been advising to the government for several days now that culling is the right strategy. Vaccination is helpful but far from enough," he said.
Bird flu has claimed at least eight lives in Thailand and Vietnam. No cases of the virus spreading to humans have been reported in Indonesia. The WHO said this week that vaccines were not proven to work against the new strain of flu, which has killed millions of birds in the sprawling archipelago since late last year. The virus has hit at least 400 Indonesian farms in recent months, the government has said.
It has denied claims of a cover-up, despite taking weeks to acknowledge bird flu was in the country. Some Indonesian farmers have killed their chickens but their crude methods of disposal, such as throwing the birds into rivers, carry the risk of spreading the disease. The industry has so far lost 7.7 trillion rupiah and up to 4.7 million chickens have died in the outbreak, agriculture minister Saragih said.



Posted in Bird Flu @ 30 January 2004 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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