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A chicken and egg situation with vaccines…

Chenbanu Bibi recently told GALVmed about the crushing effect Newcastle disease (or Ranikhet disease as it is known locally) had on her poultry: “Last time 20-25 chickens died. I had to borrow money from the neighbours and relatives. We lost 3,000 rupees (US $ 50).” Following advice from the local livestock officer and dispensary, she now understands the problem of Newcastle disease and would be prepared to pay for vaccination if this was available.

GALVmed meets Chenbanu and Miriam Bibi (photo of Chenbanu)

These two women illustrate some the challenges GALVmed faces with its work in India. Chenbanu Bibi, (left) and Mariam Bibi, both from Murshidabad District,West Bengal, India

At the same time Mariam Bibi (above), lost five chickens but   does not know what killed them. In any case she considers herself too poor to pay for vaccines: “The chickens are like our sons and daughters. When they die I feel very bad”. Without better awareness of the disease and benefits of vaccination it appears very likely that Mariam will continue to lose chickens to Ranikhet disease and fail to make financial headway.

Mamta Dhawan, GALVmed’s Programme manager: South Asia said: “Clearly there is a role for extension to create better awareness and a need to get vaccines into the hands of people like Chenbanu and Mariam. For the poorest livestock keepers it may be necessary to heavily subsidise initial rounds of vaccination until they see the benefits of the vaccination and are ready to pay for it subsequently.”

Women like Chenbanu and Mariam from West Bengal are highly dependent on livestock for their livelihoods: crop-based agriculture is not always an option and often their husbands are working away from home as low-paid daily wage labourers.