Cattle herders in Terekeka County of Central Equatoria said their livelihoods have been threatened by an outbreak of deadly diseases.
The herders said the surge in cattle diseases such as East Coast Fever, Black Quarter, Trypanosomiasis, Brucellosis, and worms have led to the deaths of several cattle recently.
“Whenever the cow gets ill in a cattle camp, we come to Terekeka to buy medicines; we usually buy them from the hospital or local clinic,” Lado Goro from Buko cattle camp told The Juba Echo during a livestock exhibition held in Terekeka County between February 23 and 24.
Lado disclosed that the surge of East Coast Fever (ECF) in his cattle camp has led to the death of several cattle.
People of Terekeka, rear cows, goats, and sheep, and grow crops.
For centuries, cattle raiding have been a problem among pastoralists in Mundari land.
And years of conflict have made the stealing or raids even more dangerous, with young raiders using guns to raid and kill.
The conflict has severely disrupted agricultural activities and made it difficult for cattle keepers to move their animals to areas with pastures.
“The challenges are that the cattle are very many, and there is too much stealing of cattle in the camp,” 38-year-old Cok Makuei from Koor camp cattle said.
“The conflict in cattle camps is mainly caused by those who steal or raid other people’s cattle by force. If they see you having a good cow, they will raid it from you and if you go after them they kill you,” he added.
Mathew Bare, a Community Animal Health Worker said the East Coast Fever drug costs 7,000 South Sudanese Pounds, an amount that many cattle keepers cannot afford.
“We vaccinate the cattle against HS-skin disease and black quarter to prevent them against these diseases,” Bare said.
He said Smile Again Africa Development Organization (SAADO) stopped the vaccination campaign of livestock since April last year.
“SAADO is the only NGO that dealt with animal health here, but this year they have not brought the vaccine and I don’t know whether the delay is from a donor or from them,” Bare said.
Philip Lado, the SAADO Project Officer for Livestock said they vaccinated about 230,000 cattle in Terekeka County.
Lado said they stopped vaccinating for nearly one year due to a lack of funds which he attributed to a global aid cut due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
“What we are facing basically is lack of funding, we depend on Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) they are the ones supporting us as you know the global crisis has affected all the NGOs,” he said.
Alith Peter Gai, Veterinary Manager of Star Pharmaceutical said they are helping in creating awareness on prevention of diseases among cattle keepers.
“We create awareness to the community and tell them about the medicine storage for the specific outbreak,” Gai said.
South Sudan with partners launched its first vaccination campaign in 2018. The campaign targeted 9 million domestic animals.
South Sudan boasts a total of 36 million livestock including 12 million cattle, 12 million sheep, and 12 million goats, according to FAO.
Livestock is one of the main economic activities, perhaps the backbone of South Sudan’s economy.
Among Mundari, Dinka and Nuer culture is centered on cattle.
It is the medium of exchange whether in marriage, payment of debts and blood price, or for sacrifices to the spirits.