Cluck, Cluck, Achooo – Avian flu threatens Bali
By Bali BS News
Sep 21, 2005, 02:36
People are dying from the H5N1 virus, AKA the latest avian flu. Yes, this avian flu is already killing humans and pigs, the later having very close DNA to humans (although certain religious faiths may not appreciate that fact). A few days ago the U.N. health agency warned that H5N1 was getting closer to a form that could be passed between people and that the world had no time to waste to prevent a pandemic (regional epidemic). Many experts believe H5N1 could make SARS look like a common cold if or perhaps when it makes the infection capability jump; at the moment victims have only been infected by chicken droppings, contaminated meat, etc.
Although Indonesia is taking measures to curb the outbreak, it is cash strapped thanks to oil prices and years of corruption and bad management at state monopoly oil company Pertamina. This is confirmed by Indonesian Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono who says the government does not have sufficient funds to conduct mass culling and compensate farmers. While Indonesian Health Minister Siti Supari Fadilah stated the spread of the disease in the country had reached an extraordinary level. Part of the problem is that chicken owners simply can not afford to kill their animals without compensation due to the populous being so impoverished thanks to years of spiraling corruption (see our report: Indonesian Police / Judiciary Corruption). So they are forced to eat and sell infected animals into the food chain.
What makes matters worse is the apparent confirmation that Indonesian officials routinely lie or simply make statements of fact without knowing any. We know that Indonesia has prepared 44 hospitals across the country to detect and treat infected humans, but the facts of their ability to do so are thrown into question by contradictions between Indonesian Health Minister Siti Supari Fadilah and Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono. Siti Fadilah claims the hospitals could immediately detect the spread of H5N1 across the county yet Anton Apriyantono states Indonesia sends blood tests from all suspected bird flu cases to Hong Kong for confirmation. This apparent falsehood by the Health Ministry is to many a typical nasty trait of the Indonesian authorities; that they have a policy to lie about matters rather then fully deal with them.
Of course the problem this brings for visitors to Bali and Indonesia is that they can not necessarily believe what they are told by the Indonesian authorities, they are at risk from a potential human-to-human super flu virus with high mortality rate, and they are faced with a country where its people heighten the risks of both allowing the virus to mutate dangerously and spread quickly by knowingly eating and selling infected animals. There also is the risk that like other government officials, agricultural officers on culling duty may take bribes to overlook certain livestock; an example of corrupt health ministry inspectors (regarding iodine in salt) can be found in our report: Indonesian Corruption Cost.
If ever another reason existed for the Indonesian government to finally, honestly, diligently and significantly rid its nation of the corruption amongst its civil servants, it is because corruption provides the ideal conditions both economically and logistically for such an impending natural disaster to happen. While the expected spread and deadly development of this virus in Indonesia is reason enough for foreigners to avoid the country. We would also suggest the corruption which inevitably fuels the problem in the first place gives due cause not just to temporarily avoid but to boycott Bali and tell the Indonesian Government why; because corruption needs to stop as it not only cripples the economy and represses its people, its effects puts everyone in Indonesia at significant risk health and safety wise.