Dr. Muhammad Afzal of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) holds up a bottle of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine to show what happens when the cold chain is broken. The vaccine is spoiled, cloudy with precipitates and no longer effective. Fortunately, this was a test bottle and 500,000 additional doses of vaccine are safely stored in a modern cold room provided by USDA as part of its Program for the Progressive Control of FMD in Pakistan.
Millions of people in Pakistan rely on animals to provide much needed food and income. Unfortunately, most of the approximately 119 million livestock in Pakistan receive little or no routine veterinary care and disease outbreaks are a common problem. FMD affects millions of cattle, water buffalo, and yaks in Pakistan each year. The disease decreases milk production, causes stillbirths, and can cause the death of valuable livestock, particularly in calves.
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) International Services (IS) advisors stationed in Islamabad work closely with Dr. Afzal, his staff at FAO, and counterparts in the Pakistani government to lay the groundwork for control of FMD in Pakistan. The program focuses on educating field veterinarians and laboratory staff on the latest diagnostic and sampling techniques, monitoring outbreaks of FMD, providing essential equipment, and demonstrating to farmers that FMD vaccination is a safe and effective way to maintain healthy herds and increase livestock production.
The project works to control FMD in all provinces and territories in Pakistan; from the southern port city of Karachi to the Himalayan city of Gilgit, from Lahore in the east to Quetta in the west. Some parts of Pakistan have dairy cows that most Americans would recognize, however Pakistanis also produce significant amounts of buffalo milk. These animals are frequently seen in the warmer areas of the country. In the mountains, yaks are the primary dairy animal and provide “everything except eggs” to the local economy.
Since the project was started in 2011, the project team has visited villages and dairy farms around the country to deliver vaccinations, take blood samples, and educate farmers about the value of vaccination. More than 100,000 dairy cows, buffalo and yaks have been vaccinated for FMD, and thousands of farmers have learned the value of vaccination to increase livestock production.
Control of FMD also requires modern infrastructure. To support the FMD control program, USDA also provided cold rooms that store the vaccine, a critical component in keeping the vaccine potent and effective. The FMD control program has also upgraded seven regional diagnostic laboratories with modern equipment to quickly and accurately diagnose FMD. In conjunction with the laboratory equipment, APHIS IS also provides training for the highly motivated Pakistani staff in the United States.