Pakistan has declared itself "provisionally free" from the deadly cattle plague rinderpest, the United Nations announced today in Rome.
"Even three years ago freeing Pakistan from rinderpest was a dream," said Peter Roeder, Secretary of the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme (GREP), led by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
For a country to declare itself provisionally free from rinderpest, a highly infectious viral disease that can destroy entire populations of cattle and buffalo, it must prove that there has been no outbreak for at least two years. It must also have stopped vaccination and have a surveillance system in place, according to the rules overseen by the Office International des Epizooties in Paris.
The last cases of rinderpest in Pakistan were detected in October 2000 in a buffalo farm near Karachi, FAO said. Recent massive movements of buffaloes and some cattle from Pakistan to Afghanistan and Iran have not been accompanied by rinderpest, supporting the declaration that the country is provisionally free from the plague.
"With Pakistan's success, there is growing confidence that the whole of Asia is now free from rinderpest for the first time in millennia," said Mr. Roeder. He cautioned, however, that "Pakistan still has much to do to achieve the final status of freedom from rinderpest infection."
With a grip on rinderpest, Pakistan will now be able to export more livestock, contributing to increased income and food security in rural areas and helping to reduce poverty in a country that earns about 12 per cent of its foreign exchange from livestock trade.
In the mid-1990s, a rinderpest outbreak swept through the northern areas of Pakistan, killing tens of thousands of cattle, buffalo and yak. This initiated Pakistan's eradication programme, which started in 1995 with assistance from FAO.