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Cablegate: Firsthand Look at Northwest Districts' Response to Bird

VZCZCXRO5551
RR RUEHCI
DE RUEHKA #1157/01 1990249
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 180249Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4524
INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0036
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 9182
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 1739
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 8012
RUEHGO/AMEMBASSY RANGOON 2556
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 0834
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//ISA/NESA
RUEKDIA/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC//J2/J5
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI//J2/J4/J5

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DHAKA 001157

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT PLEASE PASS TO AIAG/HOLLIS SUMMERS, AIAG/TONY NEWTON AND
AIAG/NICHOLAS STUDZINSKI
DELHI PLEASE PASS TO FAS/OLIVER FLAKE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TBIO KFLU ELAB PREL PGOV BG
SUBJECT: FIRSTHAND LOOK AT NORTHWEST DISTRICTS' RESPONSE TO BIRD
FLU

REF: (A) DHAKA 1035, (B) DHAKA 976, (C) DHAKA 776, (D) DHAKA 743,

AND PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Econoff and EconFSN visited Rangpur, Nilphamari
and Lalmonirhat districts located in the northwest corner of
Bangladesh July 1 Q 4 to assess in person the GOB response to recent
avian influenza outbreaks. The visit showed that some information
about avian influenza risks and even about associated programs such
as compensation for culled flocks has reached both the technical
veterinary officers as well as the general community. Details about
the virus, the outbreak, and proper precautions and response are,
however, lacking. Likewise, while large-scale commercial poultry
farms have the resources to put biosecurity measures in place, these
resources are beyond the economic scope of the small, backyard
poultry farms and are virtually non-existent among them.
Consequently, the outbreak is spreading in the backyard poultry in
these districts. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) DISTRICT AND UPAZILA LIVESTOCK OFFICERS. Emboffs met with
District and Upazila Livestock Officers in each of the three
districts. Each shared many of the same concerns: how to expand
education and awareness, whether current compensation plans are
adequate, the economic realities of the area and what that means for
biosecurity in backyard poultry, and the officers' resource
constraints. Chief among the resource complaints was a lack of
trained labor, which must be approved through the cumbersome GOB
bureaucracy and is a complaint throughout the GOB. The District
Livestock Officers admitted using local unskilled labor in culling
operations, but said that they used personal protective equipment
(PPE). It is, however, unlikely in the extreme that these laborers
received any prior training in its proper use. In each district,
the Officers were able to produce USAID provided PPE and said they
had adequate supplies. The current protocol is to send samples to
the regional Field Disease Investigation Laboratory in Jaipurhat for
testing, but each of the three District Livestock Officers expressed
interest in having testing capacity at their level.

4. (SBU) Likewise, each of the three District Livestock Officers
shared their successes. Each felt that they received good support
from their District Commissioners and reported that each district
had regular meetings of an Avian Influenza Committee made up of
livestock and human health officers, law enforcement (Police and
Bangladesh Rifles border forces) representatives, and local NGOs.
Based on the 90-day period after culling before a farm can restock
with poultry, each District Livestock Officer had proposed some
variation on an alternative livelihood plan such as dairy, sheep,
goats or cattle.

5. (SBU) BIOSECURITY IN BACKYARD POULTRY. Emboffs visited a range
of operational poultry farms. The largest commercial farm visited,
VIP Poultry Hatchery, displayed biosecurity measures including a
vehicle bath which was long enough to ensure full immersion of each
wheel. Emboffs were properly excluded from the area, which included
an eight story concrete chicken coop building. With respect to the
small, backyard operations, however, in only about a third of those
visited was there some form of disinfectant spray used and a foot
bath visible; likewise, Emboffs would have been able to enter any
area had we attempted to, in violation of good biosecurity
practices. Despite prodding from Upazila livestock officers no
farm, commercial or backyard, was able to produce a mask or
protective clothing used when entering the coops, although
admittedly with VIP Poultry, those would have in fact been on the
other side of the biosecurity line. On the positive side, the
culled farms and houses observed from outside the quarantine area by
Emboffs did not appear to have poultry in them at that time.

6. (SBU) COMPENSATION. The District Livestock Officers reported
that compensation was being paid out in their areas to culled farms.
In all districts, however, both livestock officers and industry
representatives indicated concern with the compensation scheme. The
flat rate of 70 taka for a commercial bird is on the low end of
acceptable for a broiler bird, but for a layer expected to produce
eggs over a substantial period (and which does not begin producing
until after six months), that rate is inadequate. For hatcheries,
where the six month lead time is compounded by a higher cost for the
parent or grandparent stock and the resulting live chicks are more
valuable than eggs for consumption, the compensation represents

DHAKA 00001157 002 OF 002


about a tenth of the actual investment in the bird. COMMENT. The
hatcheries most negatively impacted by this compensation scale are
also the commercial operations most able to effectively implement
biosecurity procedures for their own protection, so there is some
economic rationale to the scheme. END COMMENT.

7. (SBU) ECONOMIC IMPACT / QUARANTINE RISING PRICES. These are
rural agricultural areas and are considered economically
disadvantaged relative to other areas of Bangladesh. Distant from
the highly centralized capital in Dhaka, material costs are high for
everything from fuel to disinfectant.
A large amount of backyard poultry is raised in this region; in most
cases it is not the exclusive source of income for a household but a
supplement to other sources of income. As such, backyard poultry is
an important tool for alleviating poverty. As a result of the
outbreak, Rangpur has closed its borders to the export of poultry
and eggs, which has caused localized economic imbalances. Rangpur
produced about twice as much chicken as it consumed, and the closure
of its borders with neighboring districts such as Nilphamari and
Lalmonirhat mean a surplus of product and decreasing price within
Rangpur, but a shortage and increasing price elsewhere. Curiously,
Lalmonirhat and Nilphamari have not closed their borders to poultry
products, on the basis that in Rangpur the outbreak sites were
within one kilometer of the road where in the other districts the
outbreaks were not.

8. (SBU) LACK OF INFORMATION / DESIRE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Emboffs attended a special session of the Rangpur Chamber of
Commerce to discuss avian influenza with Chamber of Commerce
officers and local poultry farmers. The discussion highlighted the
need and desire for additional information in the community. Based
on incomplete or inaccurate information, many of the participants
asked for the simple way to stop avian influenza, and were not
satisfied with Emboff's response "strict culling, effective
quarantines, and continuous testing." Some participants even asked
why the US has not put all of its resources to developing and
distributing a vaccine. Also, the local semantic distinction
between avian influenza (only infects birds) and bird flu (the name
used when it infects humans) came up again, since apparently a local
human health representative ensured them that there is no bird flu
in Bangladesh; an accurate statement when using the local,
inappropriate definitions, but very confusing when discussing the
topic with people who use the terms correctly and interchangeably.

9. (SBU) COMMENT. The District Livestock Officers were
enthusiastic, knowledgeable within their limits and aware of their
limits, and realistic about what they could accomplish with their
resources. The local community has a broad but shallow awareness of
avian influenza and a desire for more specific information.
Compensation ranges from barely adequate at the backyard level to
wholly inadequate at the large commercial hatchery level, inversely
proportionate to the ability of the operation to afford to take
effective biosecurity measures. There is qualified support for the
GOB culling and quarantine programs, but that support is far from
enthusiastic across the board. Additional information and resources
about the outbreak in Bangladesh is available on post's avian
influenza webpage at: http://10.208.1.12/dhkavianinfluenza.htm.

PASI

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