Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pesticides become a real danger in Yemen

Stores often sells expired or unapproved pesticides to farmers.
A large quantity of the Yemeni bread Injera (called Lahoh in Yemen) poisoned an entire family and village in Qadas district of the Taiz governorate.

The bread became poisoned when one housewife in al-Ashrooh village of Qadas district prepared it in the early morning of last Saturday. She bakes a large quantity of Lahoh for a lunch meal for her family members at home and sent the remaining for relatives and loved ones in the city of Taiz, said Madean al-Qadasi, founder of Qadas website.

Instead of putting food powder, she added by mistake a pesticide used in the cultivation of qat. “All family members were poisoned and transferred to nearby hospital,” said Al-Qadasi.

When the family discovered that the cause of poisoning is the substance that the woman mistakenly put in the bread, they communicated directly with the driver of the car who supposed to carry the gift of Lahoh to their relatives in Taiz city.  He was on his way, carrying a tightly closed box of Lahoh. The driver was afraid and threw the box out of his car to the side of the road.

A qat farmer spread pesticides on his crop.
A group of children were caring for livestock in that area. They found the closed box on the ground and were happy with the lunch they have assumed they found. They hurried to their mothers and show them their discovery. Their families were happy and distributed this Lahoh for all houses neighbors in their village. Everyone got sick and was transferred to the Hospital. 
“Those are victims of ignorance and deadly poisons became a real danger for our life,” Al-Qadasi said. “It was handled and eaten by our mothers, wives, and children.”

The entire village fell victim to the use of pesticides that fell into the hand of our mothers, wives, and children. Pesticides have become a thorny issue dealt wth by many people, huge seminars, and conferences held raising many questions for what it is, the extent of its deployment, damages, the possibility of its disposal, and who bears the responsibility of it?

The government tried to tackle this serious problem from its onset. Dr. Ali Mohammed Mujawar, the Prime Minister, has declared a savage official war on those traders attempting to bring forbidden, expired, or smuggled pesticides into Yemen in 2008. “We should fight against those unconscientious traders who destroy our food and our generations’ future,” he said.

Pesticides wreck all sorts of havoc on human and animal health in Yemen. About 17,000 Yemeni people are diagnosed with cancer each year. It is often caused by smuggled and banned pesticides used in growing qat, vegetables, and fruits. The consumption of these pesticides is one of the major causes of stomach cancer and renal failure.

Many studies conducted in Yemen warn of the huge and random quantities of illegal pesticides used in growing different plants in the country.

Pesticides have a poisonous result on people. Using such pesticides for long periods can cause serious diseases. About 30 percent of cancer patients have mouth and gum cancer resulting from the use of such pesticides in agriculture. This is one of the highest rates of this type of cancer in the world.

According to the World Health Organization, about 22,000 Yemenis are annually diagnosed with cancer and about 60 percent of this number dies from the disease. This means that 12,000 people afflicted with the disease die every year. Just 25 to 30 percent of those people could be treated, with only 10 to 15 percent of those treated people able to live more than one year, shows the WHO.

“Qat is the great scourge of Yemen,” said Abdulwas’e Ha’el, Chairman of Cancer Center. “Pesticides are the great disaster that stands behind the large increase in the number of cancer patients. It has been developed recently and was traded widely in Yemen, particularly in farms of Qat.” Most agricultural products have become a direct threat to the health of people, because of the serious pesticides, and this constitutes a significant burden on the control efforts.

In a field study, Yemen spent more than YR700 billion to import just two kinds of forbidden pesticides used for growing qat trees during the period of just four years. Pesticides also badly affect the Yemeni economy, according to Dr. Abdul-Rahman Thabet, a professor at Sana’a University. “90 percent of the total imported pesticides in Yemen are used for growing qat,” he added.

A 195 tons of prohibited and illegal pesticides were seized during the first half of 2010, according to Abdullah Al-Sayani, Director of Plant Protection at the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation. “These pesticides have been stopped at the border and accumulated there to be retuned to the countries imported from,” he pointed.

China, Jordon, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are the most countries that these pesticides were come from, said Al-Sayani. “These poisons turned back to the countries they were produced because they entered the country illegally and some of them are prohibited,” he added.

The Protection of Plant General Directorate in cooperation with custom authority has been able to return back five trucks containing 86 tons of illegal pesticides from al-Hodeidah Port, he indicated.

The ministry of agriculture is carrying out campaigns to reduce importing pesticides to the country as they are dangerous to human health and on environment. “During the first half of this year, the ministry has carried out 11 campaigns to inspect stores selling pesticides in Sana’a, Taiz, Ibb, Hudeidah, Dhamar and Al-Baidha’a,” revealed Al-Sayani.

The results of these campaigns were 61 stores violated pesticides law out of 139 inspected stores in targeted governorates. 4.5 tons of pesticides have been confiscated during the campaign and kept in the ministry’s stores.

101 violation reports have been made and submitted to the prosecution by the Ministry of Agriculture in their war against violators, said Al-Sayani. However, the ministry has granted three new licenses to import pesticides and renewed 14 others to importers in some governorates.

”There are several ways to smuggle these pesticides, so we can’t stop the illegal pesticides from entering Yemen,” admitted Al-Sayani. A specialized team with portable appliances has made 24 field visits to central markets of vegetables, fruits, and qat in a number of governorates to find the effect of pesticides in these products, according to recent report issued by the Ministry of Agriculture.

The results showed that there are different levels of effects of pesticides in these products and differ from one product to another, but qat contains the highest rate of chemicals. A specialized central laboratory launched recently in Sana’a by the Ministry to study more on the effects of pesticides, its type and danger.

Yemen imports nearly 360 tons of legal pesticides formally every year and this figure reduced from 500 tons in 2006, said al-Sayani. “Yemen is still among the countries which imports limited quantities of pesticides for agricultural production.” He argued that to improve the production, “the country still needs between 1500-2000 tons every year.” 373 types of prohibited pesticides in Yemen and there are 700 kinds of chemicals smuggled illegally, toxic items and pesticides used in agriculture and used for production of qat, media report said.

 “There is no health guarantee when they use pesticides,” said Agriculture engineer Rashad Abdulmalik.  It is a scientific fact agreed upon by experts that the misuse of pesticides is a possibility as a result of ignorance on how to handling it or as a result of negligence from a large proportion of farmers in the country that do not know how to use it.

Awareness represents the main strategy to end these deadly problem, said Abdulraqeeb moqbel, Agriculture engineer.  “The reason of spread these pesticides is the ignorance of farmers accompanied with greed that lead to diseasters,” he added. The concerned authorities must play a big role in raising awareness of the danger of these poisons that kills many humans, he advises. “The traders do not care about people’s health, but they just care about sale and profit.”

Ahmed is one of payers of pesticides said that he received hundred of people who wants to pay them. “It became like any good sale it in the market if you want. Every smuggled pesticide is more powerful and makes the qat planet grow quickly,” he said. The agriculture inspectors just need bribes to make their eyes blind.

Geting rid of pesticides is impossible in a country like Yemen that lacks many of the possibilities and means of enhancing the possibility of disposal. The best way to get rid of pesticides serious backlog is through burning them under high temperature, according to the FAO. The problem is serious and fatal danger and to end it, there must be strong official and popular efforts.

1 comment:

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