May 22, 2008
The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) today predicted that the parallel impact of the Myanmar disaster on animals and the subsequent affect on people will be catastrophic.
Based on UN and Myanmar government rapid assessment figures, WSPA estimates that as many as 48 million animals may have been wiped out by the cyclone – a figure equivalent to the entire human population of the country.
The surviving animals will become increasingly susceptible to starvation and disease as their immune systems become lowered, and diarrhea will quickly become prevalent and will increase the risk of cross infection.
This puts the human population at risk as many of the animals are living alongside people in unsanitary and disease prone environments. The death of any animal will also threaten the livelihood of its owner, which will lead to further psychological and financial stress.
WSPA’s Director of Disaster Management, Philip Russell MBE, said:
“The death of such huge numbers of animals will be catastrophic for the human population. The survival of animals will help the devastated human population survive and recover more quickly. As the human impact of the disaster grows daily, we all desperately hope to see more aid reaching people soon. Access for our disaster relief and recovery veterinarians is imperative when animals are suffering and in need of food, shelter and veterinary care. ”
In addition, the disaster has killed large numbers – one in five – of draft animals needed to plow the rice fields that would feed the population for the coming year. WSPA estimates the long-term impact of losing draft cattle and buffalo will be thousands of hectares of land left unplowed, leaving millions of people at risk of ruin and starvation.
To minimize this impending second disaster, WSPA’s Emergency Response Team for Asia, based in Bangkok, is poised to enter Myanmar at the request of the UN to help the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) assess the scale of the problem and identify the steps that should be taken to alleviate further suffering through immediate relief aid for animals, as well as a longer-term recovery plan for Myanmar.