Foot- and-Mouth Disease (FMD)

(Copied from the Iraqi News Agency, Baghdad)

Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) is one of the dangerous epidemic diseases of cloven-hooved animals like sheep, goats, cows, buffaloes, and sometimes deer.

The danger of this disease lies in the fact that it is highly communicable among cattle and the rate of the losses it causes among the newborn animals is higher than among adult animals. Also there are many kinds of viruses that can cause it. This constitutes a major obstacle in the way of preventive vaccination against the disease.

Foot-and-Mouth disease can spread in different means, the most important of which are direct contact between animals and the import of infected animals or meat. Man and those in direct contact with the infected animal can communicate the disease through shoes, clothes, cars and agricultural equipment. The virus can also spread through air or water for several kilometers.

This disease has broken out in Britain in February 2001 and reports are still coming with indications of more than 250 hotbeds of the disease that have rapidly spread to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. As a result, animal production in Britain has been badly hit, and this is primarily attributed to the absence of preventive immunization programmes against the disease since the country has been declared FMD-free in 1967, when the last incidence of the disease was reported.

Reports indicate that the measures taken by the veterinary authorities in Britain have not succeeded in stopping the spread of the disease despite the slaughtering of tens of flock of infected cattle and of those suspected of carrying the virus in an attempt to allay fears of an epidemic.

Much noteworthy is the fact that the recorded case in Britain was infected with the Asian (O) virus, which is similar to the strain that caused the disease in Iraq in 1998-1999. It was characterized by the same rapid outbreak and serious cases in all kinds of animals. This arouses suspicion about Britain's role in spreading the disease in Iraq at that time, especially that if one recalls what Britain did during World War II when its planes dropped the Colorado beetle, the most dangerous potato plague. This led to the destruction of most of the crops, ruined potato production and finally caused famine.

Iraq possesses huge animal wealth considered an economic source for millions of Iraqis. Imports of the animal wealth constitute more than 40% of agricultural sector imports. The U.S, together with its ally Britain, sought to destroy means of prevention against this disease. It pushed the U.N Special Commission (UNSCOM) then chaired by Richard Butler, who is well known for his dubious connections with the CIA and Mossad, to destroy labs producing foot-and-mouth vaccines in 1996.

As a result, plans of preventive immunization against the foot-and-mouth disease stopped because of the lack of the requirements. Towards the end of 1998 and 1999 the disease spread throughout Iraq among sheep, goats, cows and buffaloes. The disease outbreak greatly affected sheep and goats and led to heavy economic losses. More than half a million animals perished, abortions among infected animals increased and the level of animal production of milk, meat and wool decreased. This was clearly reflected on the economic standard of the cattle raisers, not mentioning its negative impact on the Iraqi individual's intake of protein from red meat and milk as essential sources of food under the embargo imposed on Iraq.

In the past, Iraq used to import foot-and-mouth disease vaccines. To immunize the animal wealth in Iraq against that disease, vaccines laboratories were built and a contract was signed with a French company to technically supervise the construction of labs. These labs were designed to produce vaccines with advanced technology by using modern equipment and following latest methods in protecting the production from pollution and preventing any virus leak into the environment surrounding these labs. They were designed to produce 36 million doses of mono-vaccines to cover Iraq's needs and export the surplus to the neighbouring countries.

Actual production of vaccines started in April 1982, and export to the region countries began in 1984. Being well equipped and run by a scientific staff, these laboratories were considered by the U.N Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as reference labs to the region countries by the end of 1989.

In December 1995, UNSCOM stopped all its activities in foot-and-mouth disease labs and closed them completely as a prelude to their destruction, which took place in May 1996. During the closing period, FMD cases began to appear, particularly, in late 1995 and in early 1996. UNSCOM refused to allow the Iraqi side to take some materials and requirements from the labs to diagnose and identify the causative virus strain.

In 1999, Iraq asked FAO to rehabilitate the site to reproduce vaccines. FAO representative in Iraq visited the site but the U.S and British objection blocked the Organization rehabilitation despite the principled approval obtained.

Foreign Minister Mohammed Sa'eed as-Sahaf sent a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on April 11, 1999, in which he pointed out that the project of producing vaccines against foot-and-mouth disease was established in the 1970s and its actual production started in 1982. Sahaf said that in 1984 the project exported large amounts of the vaccines it produced to Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Laos and France. It continued its production and export till the beginning of 1991.

The Foreign Minister noted that the extent of damage done to the project equipment not only affected Iraq, but also the states of the region, the direct beneficiaries from the project, especially that all these states had been hit by the epidemic.

Despite the circumstances of the unjust embargo which the U.S administration and its ally Britain insist to maintain, the committee in charge of the national campaign for immunization against foot-and-mouth disease continues its periodic follow-up of the cases that may appear in Iraq through tens of committees working in all veterinary centres throughout the provinces. It has already taken precautionary measure to check the spread of the disease though border points and disinfect the incoming trucks and cars crossing the borders.

Thus, the ugly crime committed by the U.S administration and its ally Britain has been exposed with the destruction of FMD vaccines factory, thereby depriving Iraq and the neighbouring countries of a source that might have reduced the losses caused by the outbreak of this disease. In so doing, the United States and Britain have proved their hatred to all that that is civilized and all that can face up to their barbarism and empty arrogance.