Chicken traditions expose Africans to bird flu
Delegates at a bird flu summit this week in Mali,
Africa, have said that some African customs could expose people to the disease
In Africa, children are often responsible for rearing village poultry, and
there are also many traditions and religious ceremonies involving live poultry,
which can expose people to diseases including the potentially deadly H5N1 avian
Delegates at the summit said that steps must be taken to decrease the risk
these customs pose.
Experts from around the world are meeting in Mali's capital Bamako to
discuss how to fight the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus and prevent it causing a
human influenza pandemic.
"In Africa, it is the children's job, supervised by the women, to look
after the poultry," said Neil Ford, a communications adviser for the UN
Children's Fund UNICEF
in West Africa.
Ford said that the tradition is highly regarded, as it increases children's
sense of responsibility. "We have to come up with solutions that are compatible
with (Africans') lives and traditions," he said.
Delegates from African countries noted that chickens are often presented as
gifts to visitors and to mark special occasions, or are slaughtered in religious
One particularly risky form of sacrifice, practised in Benin, involves
participants killing a chicken by ripping out the bird's throat with their
Africa also has many outdoor markets, where birds are kept tightly packed
in cages and are slaughtered and plucked on the spot using potentially
UNICEF's Ford said it was common for sick poultry to be singled out for
eating by families raising backyard poultry. Such practices help make ends meet
in households with little food to spare, but expose the person slaughtering and
preparing the bird if it is carrying any diseases.
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