The Observer - Animal Health: Poverty exacerbates zoonotic diseases
I once heard a seasoned politician in Uganda tell a gathering that being poor is next to sin and that we should be prosecuting the lazy people keeping this country in poverty. I thought this was very harsh. Poor people often get trapped in a never ending cycle of problems which in some sections is known as “the devil’s circle of poverty.”
As if being poor is not
bad enough, poor people are more likely to be exposed to zoonotic
diseases than their well-to-do counterparts. Zoonotic diseases are
those that are common in animals but can also be transferred to
Poor communities are more
likely to suffer from zoonotic diseases because of:
This is the yoke that
keeps many in the strangling position of poverty. If one does not
know that certain diseases exist, they will not care or even have
the motivation to prevent them.
This stems from lack of
education or common knowledge. Poor people are bound to be ignorant
of basic primary health practices. This is worsened by the lack of
money to build good sanitary systems.
unhealthy animals or animal products
When poor, one can only
afford cheaper animals. Cheaper animals are often less healthy.
They are the ones being sold after suffering several diseases and
being less productive. Cheap meat on the other hand, is never the
healthiest of meats. It is often not inspected by animal health
experts and it therefore has a greater risk of harbouring
Lack of veterinary
and public health services
Lack of free veterinary services worsens situations in rural
communities that cannot pay for private services. Their animals may
suffer from diseases which, if untreated, can affect the animal
Poor people are often undernourished and less healthy. They are,
therefore, are more susceptible to infectious disease in general
and zoonoses in particular. This is made worse by the fact that
they lack money to set up good health systems for themselves and
Diseases like tuberculosis, typhoid, brucellosis, sleeping sickness
and jigger infestations that are common in poor communities, cause
disabling situations in humans.
A sick or disabled person cannot work as much or as well as they
would when healthy. They cannot work the garden to get food or earn
enough money to buy food and healthy livestock.
Unhealthy livestock produce less food. The result is little food
to eat and less food to sell. This leads to less income gains and
not enough money to buy medicines or to even pay for proper
education and healthy livestock.
Written by Dr Samuel Sewagudde