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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mass culls continue as farmers resist

Mass culls continue as farmers resist

Two children have died of bird flu in the past month, and the government says it

will continue to fight the lethal virus by the mass culling of poultry wherever

bird flu is found, said a high-ranking official at the Ministry of Agriculture,

Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF).

"We have to implement the strategy that

we submitted to the United Nations - we must crack down on outbreaks where they

are found," said Yim Voeunthan, secretary of state at the MAFF.

"For

example, if the outbreak takes place in Kampong Cham, we have to clean out that

place by killing chickens and ducks after we determine that the poultry have

bird flu."

But the government is not paying compensation to farmers

whose flocks are culled, and farmers are reported to be resisting culls, rushing

their birds to the market before government officials can kill them.

Six

Cambodians have died of bird flu since January 2005. Last year, four people died

of the disease in Kampot province. This year two people have died of bird flu in

two widely separated provinces - one in Kampong Speu on March 21, and the other

a 12-year-old boy in Prey Veng whose death was confirmed on April 5.

Ly

Sovann, deputy director of the communicable diseases control department at the

Ministry of Health, said of the outbreak in Prey Veng that he awaited the test

results of 17 people who touched the dead boy or had eaten chickens that had

died of illness. Test results on four boys who had accompanied the dead boy were

negative.

Sovann said the 12-year-old boy contracted H5N1 because he had

physical contact with a dead chicken infected with bird flu. He said the boy

died at Calmette Hospital six days after he became ill.

According to a

joint statement by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization

released on April 6, none of the other 25 people who may have had contact with

the infected bird showed any signs of bird flu. The statement says Ministry of

Health officials will search house to house for locals exhibiting symptoms such

as fever and coughing, and anyone who had contact with sick or dead poultry.

Bird flu outbreaks have now been found across Cambodia - in Kampot,

Kandal, Kampong Cham, Kampong Speu and Prey Veng.

"The outbreaks are not

big, they are just households. But we are sorry, we always have people die when

a bird flu outbreak occurs," Voeunthan said. "Until now, we haven't been able to

identify clearly from where [the outbreak] comes from."

He said that so

far this year more than 1,000 infected chickens and ducks have been slaughtered.

The government has launched a campaign to educate people about bird flu through

banners, posters, sporting events and government announcements on radio and

TV.

On April 6, Australia offered US $765,000 to the Ministry of Health,

through UNICEF and AusAID, to support the "Communication for Avian Influenza and

Pandemic Influenza Preparedness" project.

Voeunthan said the government

does not compensate people whose poultry has been killed by bird flu or culled

by health officials.

"Just recently, I heard the WHO plans to provide a

budget to the government for paying compensation," he said. "However, we cannot

consider it official yet until the money is handed to us."

Dr Megge

Miller, disease response specialist at WHO, said the budget for paying

compensation to the people will come from international donors, not WHO.

"It is up to the Cambodian government whether to change policy to pay

compensation to people," Miller said. "WHO has been an advocate in trying to get

the policy changed to enable people not to lose their livelihood."

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