A team of researchers from Australia are working on a vaccination program for chickens in Timor-Leste that could improve health for both the chickens and their owners.
Though a large portion of the people in Timor-Leste are dependant on rural farming production, the prevalence of eradicable Newcastle disease is overwhelmingly high. These incidences are resulting in a far higher morbidity rate than the local communities can afford.
“The problem with Newcastle disease is you lose a lot of chickens at a very young age, so the survival rate is poor in unvaccinated groups,” Neville Hunt from the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry told ABC Rural.
Many Timorese villages are impacted by seasonal food shortages that could be reduced with the improvement of chicken health. According to UNICEF, instances of malnutrition and growth stunting are severe in Timor-Leste. The vaccination, in reducing chicken deaths, would see an increase in access to quality poultry proteins.
The research hopes to build an immunity across the chicken populations of Timor-Leste. Though vaccinations to do currently occur in Timor-Leste the researchers believe the levels are to low and by increasing the inoculated population to 75 per cent meat and egg production can be increased.
The program will start off in a series of pilot villages to confirm the effectiveness of the program and express to the Timorese public demonstrable benefits of vaccinating a higher portion of chickens per flock.
“The aim of the project is to try and increase the vaccination rates in these pilot villages and then demonstrate, as a result of that vaccination, that there are some definable benefits,” said Hunt. “Those benefits could simply be more chickens surviving, which gives you more chickens to eat, more chickens to sell, more eggs to eat, and that would raise the level of nutrition and diversity of nutrition in the village population.