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Kitgum District Veterinary Laboratory Lies Idle

Kitgum District Veterinary Officer Dr. Alfred Kinyera says they have only been using the cold chain for vaccine storage while the rest of the equipment hasn’t been used due to lack of a specialist to operate them.
Farmers grazing their cattle in Labongo Amida Subcounty in Kitgum District were a mass vaccination against blackquarter disease was conducted recently.
Kitgum District multi-million veterinary laboratory is lying idle due to a lack of a qualified specialist to operate it. 

The laboratory was constructed by OXFAM and handed to the district local government in 2008 to enhance animal health and improve livestock production.  It is equipped with a cold chain for vaccine storage, incubators, a centrifuge, a microscope among others.

However, 12 years later after its commissioning, the laboratory hasn’t fully operational. 

Kitgum District Veterinary Officer Dr Alfred Kinyera says they have only been using the cold chain for vaccine storage while the rest of the equipment hasn’t been used due to the lack of a specialist to operate them.

He says the district hasn’t been able to employ a specialist since its inception, leaving simple and complicated animal sample tests to be conducted outside the district.

Dr Kinyera says animal samples requiring tests that would have been easily conducted at the Laboratory are now referred to National Animal Disease Diagnostics and Epidemiology Centre (NADDEC) Laboratories Entebbe, Gulu Regional Veterinary laboratory or Makerere University.

He says the absence of a laboratory specialist have negatively impacted on the diagnosis of animal diseases adding treatment are sometimes based on clinical signs and not laboratory test results.

“When you treat based on laboratory confirmation, you are sure. But currently, the treatment is based on guesswork. This is also sometimes why the response to disease control is low,” Dr Kinyera told Uganda Radio Network in an interview.

The veterinary department is also faced with limited personnel according to Dr Kinyera. There are only five assistant veterinary officers in the district who currently provide veterinary extension services to all the 22 sub-counties.

Kitgum District Production officer Alfred Omony acknowledges that the district hadn’t recruited a laboratory technician for long to ensure full operation of the veterinary laboratory.

Omony attributes the challenges to the low wage bill by the government which is unable to support the recruitment and remuneration of a laboratory specialist.

According to Omony, when the government increased the wage bill in the last financial year, they were instead tasked to prioritize the recruitment of a principal veterinary officer, an entomologist and a senior agricultural engineer.

“If we had the money to support their payment, we would have recruited a Laboratory specialist already. Money is our problem,” 

He says the district is also lacking a laboratory specialist to operate a multi-million mini crop disease and pest diagnostic laboratory which is currently also lying idle. 

The mini-laboratory was established in 2015 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries under the Peace Recovery and Development Program-PRDP.

Kitgum District is currently facing an outbreak of a suspected African swine fever –ASF that has so far killed more than 600 pigs in Labongo Akwang Sub-county. 

Omony says diagnosis for such a strange disease would have been easily done through laboratory tests conducted from the Laboratory in the district if they had a laboratory specialist. 

Unless the government releases a wage bill high enough and prioritizes the recruitment of a veterinary Laboratory specialist, the veterinary Laboratory will remain idle, according to Omony.