We asked for only 12 vehicles – Hannah Bissiw

Following the row that greeted a decision to purchase 30 vehicles for the veterinary services to help them fight the bird flu menace in the country, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture has mounted a strong defense for the request. Explaining the request, a Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Hannah Louisa Bissiw indicated that the vehicles form part of the measures being adopted to help curb the spread of the disease. She clarified that the number of vehicles they are requesting is only 12 not 30 as stated by the Minority spokesperson on Finance, Dr. Akoto Osei.

“It is 12 that we have in the document… There is nowhere in the document that says 30 vehicles and I think that the honourable member who said that on the floor, I will say it was a slip of tongue for him because it is not written anywhere,” she said. Dr Hannah Bissiw said that the vehicles would rather help them to move across the country to contain the disease. She recounted that in 2007 when there was an outbreak of bird flu in Ghana, the European Union (UN) donated 18 vehicles and 35 motorbikes to Ghana “so was it a misplaced priority in 2007? It wasn’t!” The Deputy Minister argued that Ghana has 10 regions with over 216 districts and the Veterinary Doctors would have to reach affected farms. “You can’t be sitting in Accra and think that you are controlling bird flu in some district in Paga meanwhile, there birds in the Northern Regions, the Brong Ahafo Region and all the other regions and the various districts so how do you expect us to work?” she asked.

Suggestion to rent vehicles unwise Dr. Bissiw questioned the rationale behind the suggestions that the Ministry should rather rent vehicles to undertake their surveillance duties. She said that would rather cost the nation more money than when the 12 vehicles are bought because according to her, after the disease is brought under control, “you need one year to do active surveillance so you will keep renting vehicles for one year?” “After that, you will need a passive surveillance so then what do we do? You see, we do things wrongly!” Veterinary Doctors walk on foot The Deputy Minister disclosed that presently, veterinarians walk on foot from farm to farm to carry out their duties. “We are not talking about compensation, we are not talking about anything; we don’t have the agents, we don’t have the protective gear for our officers’ to go onto the field to work,” she said. She added that the vets who went to the affected farms “did it for the love of our country because it was without any form of protection so they were 100% exposed!”