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    Rwanda: Bird Flu Threatens Agriculture Ministry

    The New Times (Kigali) March 22, 2006
    Posted to the web March 22, 2006
    Steven Baguma

    Following reports that the deadly Bird Flu has hit the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, the Minister of Agriculture Anastase Murekezi will on Friday 24, address a press conference to divulge information on how the government will deal with the virus.

    "I can't tell you anything now, if you want any information regarding Bird Flu come to the press conference on Friday," Murekezi who also heads the government taskforce on the virus told The New Times Tuesday, March 21, on phone, declining to give details. However, earlier when asked about government's efforts to stem a possible outbreak of the virus otherwise known as the H5N1 strain, the Director of the Rubilizi-based Rwanda Animal Resources Development Authority (RARDA), Dr. Theogene Rutagwenda said they were working with the police to monitor any developments regarding the strain.

    "We don't have a lot of money, but we are working with the National Police to monitor the situation at our border. We are also sensitizing the people to be extra vigilant on the issue, designing brochures about the virus and to publicize it in media outlets," Rutagwenda told this reporter.

    Dr.Rutagwenda's assertions however contrast those of the Assistant Research Director at the Center of Training and Treatment of HIV/Aids and other pandemics (TRAC+) Dr.Vianney Nizeyimana, who recently told The New Times that the Ministry of Health had earmarked about one billion Francs to counter any eventuality arising out of the strain.

    "That huge amount is news to me, I don't know where you got that figure from but to the best of my knowledge, we don't have such money and even we haven't imported any vaccines like Tamiflu," he said.

    Meanwhile, Press reports indicate that by Thursday 16, agricultural officials in Rwanda's backyard, the DRC had recorded at least 260 chicken and ducks suspected of having died of avian flu.

    The DRC becomes the fifth African country to confirm the outbreak of the fatal strain following Nigeria, Egypt, Niger, and Benin, while neighbouring Uganda is said to have imported Tamiflu vaccines in bulk to counter any possible outbreak of the Bird Flu.