While Israel is striving to contain an outbreak of avian flu, poultry farmers in the Gaza Strip are refusing to cull suspected infected birds, unless they receive immediate compensation. The World Bank yesterday announced that it would transfer $2 million to the Palestinians to help the Palestinian Authority cope with the epidemic, and compensate farmers. Two foci of bird flu have been identified in the Gaza Strip so far, one in Rafiah, and the other in Hajar El Dik, near the Israeli community of Nahal Oz. Unconfirmed cases have occurred in the Tubas area in the West Bank.
International organizations, including the World Bank and the UN are worried that unless financial compensation is provided to farmers to cull infected poultry, the Palestinian Authority could become a reservoir of bird flu threatening the entire Middle East. The situation is especially problematic in the Gaza Strip, both because of the population’s dire economic circumstances, and the proximity of poultry and humans. Another problem in the West Bank is the widespread smuggling of poultry adults and chicks through the seam line into Israel, and the lack of supervision against it.
PA Ministry of Agriculture senior official Gibril Abu Ali told “Globes” that the PA was able to cope with bird flu and contain its spread. He said the PA was cooperating with Israel on the matter, and that “the disease does not recognize borders.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu-Mazen) has set up a supreme national committee to combat bird flu, headed by the minister of agriculture. The committee is due to cooperate with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Bank, and Israel. The Palestinians have asked for international aid to obtain vaccines and compensate poultry farmers.
Abu Ali said the financial damage from bird flu had not yet been assessed. Seven million poultry are raised in the PA, including 2.5 million in the Gaza Strip, worth an estimated $50 million. The PA has undertaken various measures to contain bird flu, including veterinary quarantines and the culling of 48,000 suspected ill poultry. Abu Ali said the closure of border crossings to the Gaza Strip and road blocks in the West Bank hindered Palestinian efforts to cope with the bird flu epidemic, and delayed the arrival of veterinary teams to locations of suspected outbreaks.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on March 26, 2006
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