The Battle Past, the Legend Lives
Images and smells of sick cows with weeping eyes and lacerated mouths are increasingly confined to the memories of cattle herders like Bowema Diarra. His country is now free of the disease. As he talks of Mali's last rinderpest outbreak in 1984 a group of teenage boys gather to listen. Bowema speaks of the toll it wrought on livestock owners, in a country where people depend on agriculture and are among the poorest in the world. These young men won't have to face this deadly cattle disease. The only way they are seeing the virus spread is through story and legend.
For them, it is a story of hope and success, of Africa's capabilities to wage and win battles against disease that threatened their treasured cattle and livelihoods. The OAU's original Pan African Rinderpest Campaign (PARC) officially ended in 1999, becoming the model for a new and broader animal health programme called the Pan African Programme for the Control of Epizootics. Aptly called PACE, it is Africa's first continent-wide epidemiology programme.