That is if the country fails to put under control the fatal disease that has already devoured millions of chickens in South African farms where the virus is believed to emanate from.
Lesotho’s economy largely relies on agriculture and in the event the Avian Influenza spreads to the rest of the districts, not only will commercial poultry farming be affected but both indigenous chickens and wild birds will also soon feel the pinch.
Chickens and their products including eggs provide the cheapest and most readily available proteins in Basotho meals.
While the banning of imported chickens might go a long way towards stopping further infections from South Africa, what remains to be seen are the Lesotho’s efforts to contain the transmission of the virus from chickens to people.
The government is further obligated to ensure that the virus does not go rampant and kills more birds than it already did. Reports show that most of the chickens that were killed by the flu were unwittingly consumed by people who could not afford to see the free meat go to waste.
When the government this week announced in Parliament the decision to ban both imports and exports of chicken products, it also issued a stern warning that the disease is zoonotic – that is it can be transmitted from animals or chickens to human beings.
But by then, scores of dead chickens had already been eaten by people who had no idea that they were actually skating on thin ice.
Government’s warning is clear that consuming the infected chickens or their products will pass the virus to the people. But first the public has to be warned about the existence of the virus and its consequences on people and chickens as well as wild birds which are at times eaten by herd boys and even dogs.