The House also asked the Ministry of Finance to, as matter of urgency, provide the needed funds to enable the Ministry of Food and Agriculture combat the Avian Flu (H1N1) before it assumed epidemic proportions, an occurrence that could hold dire health and economic consequences.
Following a directive by the Speaker of Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho, the House’s Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs held an emergency meeting on Friday, July 3, with the Ministries of Food and Agriculture and Finance and the Poultry Association of Ghana and other stakeholders, on the way forward to address the problem.
The lawmakers were reacting to a statement made on the floor of the House by the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Food and Agriculture Committee, and MP for Shama, Gabriel Kodwo Essilfie, drawing attention to the growing treat of the Bird Flu disease, and the urgency for prompt government intervention to forestall a blowout of the deadly virus that could be transmissible and lethal to humans.
Mr Essilfie argued that because the rate of the outbreak was alarming, the Ministry of Finance should, as a matter of priority, release funds to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to enable the Directorate of Veterinary Services bring the Bird Flu under control.
Noting the importance of the poultry industry to the development of the country, the Legislator said if immediate remedial action was not taken, government’s effort at reducing import of poultry and its products and promoting local production would be seriously affected, since many indigenous poultry farmers were losing their investments because of the Avian Flu.
Bird Flu or Avian flu is a serious contagious viral disease in animals with a potential for some strains to infect humans, with all the health implications. The disease, since January 2015, had been reported in many West Africa countries, with Nigeria recording the first cases followed by Burkina Faso, Niger, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.
Ghana reported its first case on May 12, on a farm in the Greater-Accra Region, and there had since been recorded cases in the Volta and Ashanti Regions, with the culling of over 33,000 birds at 11 poultry farms, and a recorded loss of over a million Ghana Cedis.
Dr Hannah Bissiw, a Deputy Minister of Agriculture in charge of Livestock, told the House that the Ministry was carrying out surveillance on the disease, but the drawback was the lack of resources to monitor the outbreak.
She said because the disease could be transmitted from animals to humans, it was prudent that Veterinary officers were adequately resourced to carry out the required investigations, appealing to the Finance Ministry to provide funds for that purpose.
Dr Sagre Bambangi, MP for Walewale, also bemoaned the fact that the agricultural industry had not received the needed financial assistance to mitigate such problems, warning that the Bird Flu disease should not be allowed to fester because it could indicate an epidemic of “scary proportions”.
“If this problem festers, we could experience an epidemic of serious proportions…….The Finance Ministry should immediately release funds to enable the Agriculture Ministry tackle this problem,” he said.
Mr Yaw Frimpong Addo, MP for Manso-Adubiasaid “this situation is urgent and if we don’t mobilize resources to mitigate this Avian Influenza, the economic consequences would be unquantifiable”.
“This time bomb we are sitting on should not be allowed to explode”, he said.
On his part, Minority Leader, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsus, said it was unfortunate that the disease traversed the northern frontiers of the country to Accra undetected, adding that it was important that those who brought the birds from Burkina Faso that infested Ghana’s stock with the flu should be investigated to ensure that their health had not been compromised.
He also urged government to give the necessary intervention to rejuvenate Ghana’s poultry industry which hitherto was the doyen of the sub-region.
Mr Alfred Kwame Agbesi, Deputy Majority Leader, also called for effective steps to counter the avian flu before it harmed the country’s economy.