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December 17, 2008

Morocco calls for EU help to battle goat plague

A top Moroccan agriculture official urged the European Union on Dec 16 to help the north African country combat a highly contagious disease that has killed nearly 2,400 goats and sheep.

The "goat plague," known by its French name "peste des petits ruminants" (PPR), emerged in Morocco in July, prompting a warning from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization that millions of sheep and goats were at risk.

"The EU must accompany us in our efforts to eradicate the disease," said Hamid Benazzou, head of the livestock department at the Moroccan agriculture ministry. "Europe will be protected if we complete our vaccination campaign. Morocco plays the role of buffer zone for EU countries," he said.

Morocco will conduct a second vaccination campaign next year to "definitely defeat PRR," Benazzou said. More than 20 million animals have been vaccinated with the help of a French laboratory, he said.

Benazzou also called for coordination between neighbouring nations, saying he feared that Morocco's efforts would have been in vain if other countries failed to protect their livestock.

"We call for transparency of neighbouring countries' veterinary systems and the creation of a regional program to fight PPR," he said.

The outbreak in Morocco was "likely due to the illicit animal trade at the borders," Benazzou said.

There have been no PPR outbreaks in Morocco since November 5, he said. The agriculture ministry reported in September that 2,364 goats and sheep had been killed by the disease.

The disease can affect goats, sheep and other animals. It is transmitted through close contact between livestock and can lead to death.


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