January 29, 2004



Indonesia Orders Mass Chicken Slaughter To Contain Bird Flu


Indonesia finally bowed to international pressure by ordering a mandatory slaughter of chickens in areas affected by the bird flu outbreak.


The World Health Organization had criticized Indonesia's initial refusal to order the killings, saying poultry culls were the best way to halt the rapid spread of avian flu.


Welfare Minister Jusuf Kalla said President Megawati Sukarnoputri had promised government assistance to compensate breeders for the losses and to replace their stocks.


"Immediately cull (chickens) that have been infected," Kalla said following a meeting at the presidential palace. "We will then...help the small-scale farmers whose chickens were killed."


After weeks of denials, Indonesian authorities announced Sunday that avian influenza was rampant in much of the country, including Bali, the nation's premier tourist destination. Ten Asian countries and territories are battling the disease in poultry.


Indonesia maintains it has no human cases of bird flu. The virus has jumped to humans in Thailand and Vietnam, where at least 10 people have died.


Kalla said that payment of compensation to breeders would be delayed in order to make sure that replacement stocks aren't infected.


"We will provide new, healthy (chicks) without charge," Kalla said.


Kalla didn't specify how many birds would be affected by the order, but officials have said that several parts of Java, Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo have been affected by the disease.


Although millions of chickens have died since August, authorities had attributed the deaths to another ailment not dangerous to humans.


Wednesday, the agriculture ministry said authorities had suggested culling only if farmers could afford it.


"It seems the Indonesians aren't yet convinced of the effectiveness of culling," Kumara Rai, director of communicable diseases at the World Health Organization's Southeast Asia office, said at an international meeting in Bangkok to discuss the regional bird flu outbreak.

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